Lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand-washing facilities and/or waste management, also known as period poverty, has been an issue for decent number of young females in the past decade, but the situation additionally worsened since the Covid-19 pandemic began leaving almost a quarter of U.S. students struggling to access period products.
In the last couple of years, dozens of states tried, but only a few successfully managed to pass bills which will require public elementary and high schools to provide free menstrual products for female students. Women’s Voices For The Earth is a nonprofit advocacy group pushing for free pads, tampons and other products in school’s restrooms, but they say this change is going slower than expected.
While female students who can’t afford these ‘elementary hygiene products’ still remain victims of the politicians’ calculations, a teacher from Texas decided to try and help her female students on her own. What should have been just a simple small local donation call, ended up to be national story reported by several major news outlets few days ago.
According to the CNN, Kylie DeFrance teaches English and her students are between the ages of 12 and 14. This is the time that most girls start their menstruation cycle, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. DeFrance became aware that her students were in need of multiple types of pads since the school provided only one type of pads.
As a middle school teacher in a school where almost all of the students are economically disadvantaged, she realized that most of the female students couldn’t afford appropriate pads and tampons, so she was thinking of ways how she can help her students. She came up to an idea and placed several different types of pads and tampons on her desk and she soon became the go-to teacher for all things menstruation.
“A lot of these scholars go home and are the parent to their siblings, and maybe can’t go to the store that day,” she said. “Or, they can’t afford the pad or tampon that would be best for them, or maybe they don’t have a good relationship with their parents.”
DeFrance quickly became known as the “pad bag teacher”. While she was happy helping her students providing them what they needed, so many female students needed menstrual products she found herself spending upwards of $100 a month on feminine products. That’s when she decided to ask for help and she posted her Amazon wish list on her NextDoor page. Several weeks later her front porch was filled with boxes, and at one point, postal workers came twice a day to drop off packages.
“I thought two or three boxes would come in,” DeFrance said. “My community blew me away with how much support they provided.” DeFrance couldn’t believe how popular her call for help ended up to be, estimating that more than 7,000 boxes of pads and tampons combined have been donated since her initial donation call in January.
With the surplus of supplies received, DeFrance said she has been able to create some period goody bags for students to take home with them, as well as sharing resources with other teachers. She said her hope is by normalizing periods — and giving students the products they need — they will be able to focus on their learning without their cycles being top of mind.
“I just want to make that something that they don’t have to think about or be stressed or worried about or uncomfortable,” she said. “You should be comfortable while you’re learning in school.”
Months later, donations aren’t slowing down, but nor are DeFrance’s efforts. She says her intention is to build a “menstruation station” in the school bathroom so all students can have easier access to stock up. DeFrance thanks several ‘special neighborhood friends’ helping her out with the packages and achieving her goals to help as many female students in need as possible.