New survey results highlight the importance of access to menstrual hygiene products in schools.

By Maressa Brown

While many of us take it for granted that we can reach for a pad, tampon, or menstrual cup  whenever we need one, a new survey has reached an alarming conclusion: 84%, or more than four in five, teens have missed class, or know someone who has missed class due to the lack of access to menstrual hygiene products. It also found one in five students have struggled to afford period products or were unable to purchase them at all.

The survey, entitled "State of the Period" was commissioned by period solutions company Thinx Inc. and PERIOD, a national nonprofit focused on ending period poverty and period stigma and conducted by Harris Insights and Analytics. The results are based on surveys of 1,000 aged 13 to 19.

In addition to the heartbreaking news that kids are missing out on class and struggling to afford menstrual hygiene products, the survey also reached the following conclusions about access and education:

  • 61% of students have worn a tampon or pad for more than four hours because they did not have enough access to period products (putting them at risk of infection and TSS).
  • 25% of students (1 in 4 teens) have missed class because of lack of access to period products.
  • 76% of students think we are taught more about the biology of frogs than the biology of the human female body in school.
  • 79% of students feel that they need more in-depth education around menstrual health.
  • 83% think lack of access to period products is an issue that is not talked about enough.

Shame around menstruation also a major issue for teens, as 64% said they believe society teaches people to be ashamed of their periods, 66% do not want to be at school when they are on their period, and 80% feel there is a negative association with periods, that they are gross or unsanitary. The survey also found the majority (51%) of students feel like their school does not care about them if they do not provide free period products in their bathrooms.

In the survey report, Thinx and PERIOD point out that "over the past four years, the menstrual equity movement has been gaining momentum, with successful policy proposals in high schools and on university campuses across the United States, as well as legislation calling for the elimination of the 'tampon tax' at the state and municipal levels. Although data is still sparse, early indicators suggest that policy reform works, showing, for example, an increase in school attendance after making period products available."

They conclude that action must be taken to make "menstrual products and menstrual health education available to all young people." They call on Congress to fund comprehensive impact studies on period poverty's effects on students and their access to education, as well as passing the Menstrual Equity for All Act (H.R. 1882). Another important step lawmakers should take: prioritizing medically accurate sex education at the state level to ensure period education is accessible and available for all students by passing the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act (H.R 2720).

They also call for lawmakers at the state level to repeal of the sales tax on period products, i.e. the “tampon tax," which "puts an unfair financial burden on people with periods in thirty-five states that still categorize period products as 'luxury items' and not medically necessary."

The survey report concludes with a crucial, urgent message: "When we achieve menstrual equity, people with periods have the freedom to work, study, and participate in society with basic dignity. With menstrual equity, we can all further realize our full potential."

This survey sheds light on an issue that deserves far more visibility. Thankfully, Thinx is driving the conversation in other ways, as well. Just a few weeks ago, the company launched an ad on 19 networks across the U.S. that envisions what the world would look like if everyone got their period.

With hope, powerful ads like this, as well as concrete facts and stats about period poverty, will serve to fuel real change.

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