When people donate to homeless shelters they often donate food and clothes. Honestly, they mostly need money but that’s for another blog. I am the advisor for a high school community service club, This Club Saves Lives, at Carmel High School in Carmel, California. Every year we perform local and global actions based on the passions and interests of the student club members. A few years ago we conducted a school supplies drive. One person donated a bunch of Ipsy bags, those little makeup bags, for us to use as a pencil pouch. As we were making supply backpacks one of the club members said the bags reminded her of the bag she was given in preparation for getting her period. Tampon Tuesday was born.
The student, Clementine Chamberlain, took our club on a mission to destigmatize periods. Often students hide a tampon in a sweatshirt on their way to the bathroom or ask in hush tones if someone has a pad. Clementine decided to collect tampons and donate them to homeless and women’s shelters. Our club made boxes for collection and Clementine walked around campus and asked teachers if she could place the box in their classroom. A few said no, most said yes. Clementine had some powerful conversations with those that said no.
On Tuesdays we promote on social media and broadcast reminders on the school video bulletin. We caught the attention of the people at WE and were awarded a grant by the Allstate Foundation. Clementine and I even went on the radio, interviewed by three guys, on a local show. It is amazing how much awareness this has brought to Carmel High School, the community, and those connected online. It wasn’t easy, Clementine did get some backlash from a few of her peers but it also showed her how important it was to do this work and normalize periods. Having the collection boxes in classrooms become a conversation starter and created a safe place for these conversations.
We had no idea there were already so many organizations focused on collecting menstrual projects and shedding light on period poverty. In the United States one in five teens will struggle to afford to purchase menstrual products and students living in poverty may miss up to a week of school each month because they don’t have access to menstrual products. That is not an equal education. In California schools are now required to provide menstrual products to students. California collects over $19M in taxes on these products every year but this year California finally joins other states in removing the tampon tax.
Find out if your state taxes menstrual products and if your school provides items to students. Also, how would a student know if they are available? Where are they located? Hopefully they are in a convenient place. Ask questions in your schools and community. And the next time you are donating to a homeless shelter, throw in a box of tampons.
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This post sits nicely alongside these #slowchathealth posts: