Ending Period Poverty
What is Period Poverty?
Period poverty is defined as inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and education, including but not limited to sanitary products, washing facilities and waste management.
End Period Poverty
26 states still charge tax on menstrual products. We are calling on state representatives to repeal this unfair and unjust sales tax, which leads to “period poverty,” especially for people of low income.
A study by a national advocacy group, Period, found one in five teens cannot afford these products, and 84 percent have missed class or know someone who missed class because of this.
Women who can’t afford these products instead use substitutes such as rags and paper towels, heightening their risk for infection and other negative health impacts. One might also see this as a case of discrimination on the basis of sex, considering over-the-counter libido enhancersare tax exempt under a separate regulation.
Period Poverty Toolkit
Three goal areas:
- Educating and raising awareness about period poverty and reducing the stigma around menstruation, as an aspect of advocacy;
- Advocating for legislation that promotes period equity; and
- Conducting a service project to provide period products where they are needed.
Clubs can accomplish all three goals in one event or can plan more than one event to carry out these activities.Download the toolkit
How Can Zontians Help?
Dates related to menstruation and period poverty
Period Poverty Awareness Week May 22—28, 2023
Menstrual Hygiene Day–May 28
Period Action Day Every second Saturday of October
1. Educate and Raise Awareness
The first step toward ending period poverty is to challenge the notion that periods are somehow dirty or shameful. A 2021 study, “State of the Period,” commissioned by Thinx & PERIOD found the following:
- 76% of students say there is a negative association that periods are gross and unsanitary and 65% agree that society teaches people to be ashamed of their periods.
- 70% say the school environment makes them especially self-conscious of their periods.
- 83% hide their period products when they walk out of class to go to the bathroom.
- 65% do not want to be at school when they have their periods
Challenging the stigma around menstruation can help encourage those experiencing period poverty to open up and request products they need.
Resources for Educational Presentations:
Two national organizations, PERIOD and Alliance for Period Supplies, a program of the National Diaper Bank Network, have websites with an abundance of educational information. You can put together a presentation from these resources or find an expert in your area who would be willing to give a talk on the topic. The Alliance for Period Supplies has a map and list of Allied Organizations by state that could help you find an organization to provide a speaker, as well as to which to donate items. Download the toolikit
A. State Legislation
In many states, period products are not recognized as basic necessities, but rather taxed as luxury items at a similar rate as goods like decor, makeup, electronics and toys.
As of September, 2022, 33 states (plus Washington D.C.) exempt food from their general sales tax and 5 states tax food at a lower rate than other goods, but only 23 states (plus Washington D.C.) exempt period products from taxation. Another 5 states do not have a state sales tax. The other 22 states charge sales tax on period products ranging from 4-7%.
B. Federal Legislation
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) successfully enacted legislation that allows menstrual products (including tampons, pads, liners, cups, and other items) to be purchased with money from health savings accounts (HSA) and flexible spending accounts (FSA). The legislation was included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was the COVID-19 relief package that was passed by Congress and signed into law in March 2020.
H.R. 3614 was introduced in the last Congressional session and, hopefully will be re-introduced in the current session: (watch for a Fast Action Friday)
H.R.3614 – Menstrual Equity For All Act of 2021 is a whole-of-government, and comprehensive initiative that seeks to help different populations of women and girls afford and access needed menstrual products, including tampons, pads and many other items.
PERIOD also has a step-by-step guide for contacting your legislators.
Service around Period Poverty involves collecting various types of feminine hygiene products for donation. The collection can be a one-time event or an on-going activity. You can expand your service activity by volunteering with a related organization.
Consider donating period products to any of the following entities:
- Homeless shelters
- Domestic violence shelters
- Food pantries
- Schools—middle or high schools or universities
- Diaper banks
Local period supply programs–independent community-based nonprofit organizations that collect, warehouse and distribute menstrual/period supplies in local communities.
If you need help finding an organization to benefit, check out the Alliance for Period Supplies website for period supply programs in your area on a map and list of Allied Organizations by state or lists of organizations such as women’s shelters, homeless shelters and food pantries by state in the Alliance’s hosting a drive guide. Although most clubs prefer to donate locally, you could consider donating product to PERIOD to help stock their warehouses for distribution to their partner organizations directly serving menstruators in need. This approach might work especially well for e-clubs.
Be sure to check with the organization you are considering benefiting to find out what kind of products they need and whether they have any types of restrictions on items they can accept. Consider seeking volunteer opportunities for individuals and/or groups and other ways to get involved with the organization to which you are donating or your local period supply program.
Why Should Period Poverty Matter to Zontians?
A 2021 study conducted by U by Kotex®, found that more than two in five people having periods struggled to purchase period products, a 35% increase from 2018. The study also showed that period poverty disproportionately impacts Black and Latina people and reflected the impacts of COVID-19 on the issue. According to the study:
A quarter of Black (23%) and Latina (24%) people with periods strongly agree that they had struggled to afford period products in the previous year compared with 8% of white respondents
27% of all respondents said the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult to access period products, with two-thirds (65%) of those stating they lacked access because they could not afford them.
Over one-third (38%) of low-income women report missing work, school or similar events due to lack of access to period supplies.
Nearly seven in ten (68%) people agree that period poverty is a public health issue, yet half of respondents believe that period poverty is more of an issue internationally than domestically, and public awareness of local resources that offer period products to people who need help remains low.
See also Unmet Menstrual Hygiene Needs Among Low-Income Women regarding the impact of period poverty on low-income women.Call YOUR Representative
District 10 established period poverty as a district-wide service and advocacy project for the current biennium, and Governor Connie Davis formed a small district working group on the topic, comprised of the district Service, Advocacy and Membership Chairs. March kicks off the Add Your Voice Membership Campaign and the second time of the year ZI President Ute would like all Zontians to raise their voices for a big advocacy project, presenting a good opportunity for Zontians to unite to combat Period Poverty and increase our collective impact.
Accordingly, the D10 Period Poverty Working Group has put together this toolkit to assist clubs with planning and executing an event around Period Poverty that combines Service, Advocacy and Membership with the goal of clubs having an event during the week of March 6-10 to coincide with Rose/International Women’s Day on March 8.
However, the toolkit can be used at any time, including for the key dates around menstrual equity at the end of the toolkit. D10 is happy to share this toolkit with the Zonta USA Caucus through the Health Committee for the use of clubs around the country.
The 22 States that Tax Menstrual products
Additional Period Resources
- Download the District 10 Toolkit and guide, including details on Education, Advocacy and Service.
- Download a sample letter to a state legislation
- The website of the Alliance for Period Supplies features several convenient tools to help you advocate for appropriate legislation in your state:
- A map with state-specific information on taxation of period products;
- Information by state on legislation ensuring access to period products in schools; and
- A map highlighting bills related to period products, menstrual health, equity, access, and/or taxation currently being considered by state legislatures on a state-by-state basis.