In a pilot program rolling out this month, New York high schools are giving out free tampons. And all I can say is, "Hooray and finally!" This initiative, the first of its kind, will install dispensers in 25 public high school restrooms located in low-income neighborhoods — specifically District 24 in Queens and District 9 in the Bronx. The plan, which completed will serve 11,600 young women, was announced by City Council on Monday, and the rollout is expected to be completed by by the first of April. For too long, there has long been a gaping hole in women's essential needs, and this program is taking steps to bridge it. “This pilot marks a major step in providing additional resources to students in need,” Deputy Schools Chancellor Elizabeth Rose told the New York Daily News.
Queens Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who has led the effort, explained the choice of schools in a statement to the Daily News, "Girls in these districts face the greatest financial hardships... I want to ensure none of them lose class time, face illness or feel humiliated because their family cannot afford pads.”
Before the legislation was passed, Ferreras-Copeland ran a free-tampon program at the High School for Arts and Business in Corona. With the installation of a single a feminine hygiene product dispenser, attendance increased by 2 percent, and the number of women being excused from class fell. These results came as no surprise to Ferreras-Copeland, who in her past experience leading after-school programs, had seen girls cut class because of stained clothes or feeling to mortified to publicly ask for what they needed.
The Department of Education says the entire program will cost about $160,000 this year — a small price to pay for girls to feel comfortable in class. DOE officials also stated that depending on the program's reception, it could could be expanded citywide. A free tampon machine in every high school and middle school — double yay!
While most schools offer tampons and pads at the nurse's office, many students feel too ashamed to ask for them, not wanting to draw attention to themselves. As those involved in the fight for tampon access continually point out, it is an issue on equality. Men are provided with everything they require in the bathroom. They do not need to ask multiple people every time they are obliged to use toilet paper. “You feel more confident and don’t feel as nervous. You can just grab it whenever you need it. It’s there for you,” Ashley Celik, a sophomore at Arts and Business High School where the first free-tampon machine was installed, told the Daily News.
The bill is part of a greater package of legislation fighting to provide easy access to tampons and pads where women need them most, additionally in homeless shelters and correctional institutions. The package includes a bill to eliminate the tax on feminine hygiene products in New York City or State, which earlier this month was also challenged in a class action lawsuit.
Ferreras-Copeland said in a statement, “Feminine hygiene products are as essential as toilet paper, helping women prevent health risks and fulfill their daily activities uninterrupted by nature.” She elaborated on the immediate necessity for action, “no young woman should face losing class time, because she is too embarrassed to ask for, can’t afford or simply cannot access feminine hygiene products.”