There is an ever growing movement to expand access to period supplies. As of the 2022 academic school year, public schools in California, grades six to 12, community colleges and the California State University System — a network of 23 campuses with more than 485,00 students — will be required to provide free period products in restrooms.

Janet Alfano

Period poverty, the struggle to purchase essential period supplies, is a nationwide issue that is causing individuals to miss out on daily life.

The Diaper Bank of Connecticut’s Beam Program–the Connecticut Chapter of the Alliance for Period Supplies– is working to ensure that individuals can access essential period products. Since launching in 2020, Beam has provided more than 194,000 free period products to 4,400 individuals statewide. During the 2022 Legislative Session, Beam will join with advocates and allies across the state to champion legislation similar to that passed in California.

Pads and tampons are simple necessities, yet many across Connecticut are going without them. In addition to schools, advocates in Connecticut are looking to increase access to period products in state buildings, prisons, and homeless shelters.

Period products are expensive and needed each month. The cost of these products makes them inaccessible for many low-income individuals struggling to make ends meet. Many often forgo menstrual products to afford other basic necessities. Without tampons or pads, people resort to using rags, toilet paper, or even adult diapers.

Beyond the physical toll this takes on an individual’s health, there is a mental health impact as well. In an article published in BMC Women’s Health, “among women who reported experiencing period poverty every month, 68.1% reported symptoms consistent with moderate or severe depression, compared to 61.2% of women who had experienced any period poverty, and 43.4% of those who had not experienced period poverty.”

One in eight women and girls between the ages of 12 and 44 in Connecticut lives below the Federal Poverty Level. Period poverty is also having an impact on an individual’s employment and education. According to a 2018 survey, one in five low-income women reports missing work or similar commitments due to lack of access to period supplies. And, one in four teens in the U.S. has missed school due to the lack of period supplies.

Period poverty has been recognized in Connecticut by lawmakers and advocates. In 2016, the state legislature eliminated the tax on period products. And, groups like Dignity Grows, Love Your Menses, and the Connecticut Period Team have been distributing feminine hygiene products, raising awareness about the taboo associated with menstruation, and calling on the Legislature to do more. The Beam Program continues to expand its reach, distributing period supplies and funding to community partners/community-based period supply initiatives, but we need legislative changes to make period supplies more accessible and affordable, regardless of income.

According to a recent study conducted by Always, one out of three parents reported feeling worried about affording period products due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and financial constraints. In 2022, the state legislature should recognize period products for what they are — a basic necessity. No student should have to miss school and no adult should have to miss work because they are unable to afford a basic necessity they require to thrive.

Janet Alfano is the Executive Director of the Diaper Bank of Connecticut, Inc./North Haven