Education

A teen wrote a bill to end period poverty in schools

Her state's senate will vote on free menstrual products in New Hampshire schools this week.

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High school senior Caroline Dillon is on a mission to get a bill passed requiring New Hampshire schools to provide free period products.

Dillon helped state Sen. Martha Hennessey write Senate Bill 142 to end period poverty and break down taboos about menstruation, New Hampshire local news outlet Seacoast Online reports. The 17-year-old is fighting for easy access to period products in school because students are missing class due to lack of access to period products and menstrual hygiene.

“To think about my classmates being in need and not having the access to something so basic is just awful,” Dillon shared. She says middle school students at her school use unsafe materials like socks and newspapers, or reuse period products to manage.

“I couldn’t really let that go. Once you know something like that, you can’t go back from it,” she said.

Dillon first learned about period poverty –– the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand washing facilities, and/or waste management –– while working on a history project on inequality in June 2018. She learned that women living in poverty are especially vulnerable to the negative effects of lacking menstrual hygiene.

The Spaulding High School senior, who plans to be a midwife and nurse practitioner, has been working to make period products as accessible as toilet paper ever since.

After completing the project, Dillon wrote a mock bill requiring New Hampshire Schools to stock free period products and presented it to Sen. Hennesey, who helped her fine-tune it.

The two brought the bill before the State Senate’s Education and Workforce Development Committee on Feb. 5. Rochester Middle Schooler Alex Kann joined Dillon to testify, and together they gained unanimous support for the bill from the five-person committee. The full Senate will vote on the bill this week. Hennesy is hopeful the bill will pass, but funding is expected to be the biggest obstacle to passing the bill.

If Senate Bill 142 passes, New Hampshire will be the fourth US state to provide free period products to students. In January, activists called on the Department of Education to prioritize menstrual equity in schools at a federal level, but more legislation — like Senate Bill 142 — is needed beyond the US to restore dignity and pride for people who menstruate around the world.

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