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A young activist’s journey to bring period products to school bathrooms.

The fight for sexual and reproductive rights is multigenerational. As a 14-year-old student at Mankato East High School in Minnesota, I’ve seen first-hand how youth have been disregarded and left out of the conversation. But sexual and reproductive rights impact our day-to-day lives. In middle school and high school, you have to navigate constant social, mental, and physical changes; you are facing new relationships, finding your identity, experiencing hormonal changes, and so much more.

As a student, I knew I wanted to make a change and fight for reproductive freedom, so I started in my smaller community.

When Roe was overturned, I organized a rally at my school. I assembled around 400 students at my middle school for a walkout in protest of the decision. After making our voices heard for reproductive freedom at my school, I collaborated with a student from Mankato West High School to raise awareness for period poverty. Period poverty encapsulates the lack of access to period products and education about menstruation that many people who have menstrual cycles experience.

There were students at my school who struggled every month to buy enough pads and tampons to last the entirety of their cycle.

Over the course of a year, we built a campaign to hold menstrual product drives to donate to local schools and women’s shelters, which we hope to start implementing this coming school year.

Around the same time, I joined Planned Parenthood as a Generation Action Intern which pushed me to get even more involved in the community with organizing across Minnesota, including attending other rallies and events.

The need for accessibility of period products in schools

I felt so strongly about period drives and reproductive rights because the lack of accessible menstrual products in restrooms impacts everyone with a menstrual cycle. Not all students have the privilege of getting period products at home. There were students at my school who struggled every month to buy enough pads and tampons to last the entirety of their cycle. For some of my peers, their parents couldn’t afford it. For others, their parents refused to buy them tampons because they never received education on how to use tampons themselves.  No matter what, it made no sense to me that schools across Minnesota didn’t provide free period products for students.  

Even for those who could access period products at home, they would sometimes forget to bring extra to school or unexpectedly get their period. Some students would even miss part of class to go to the nurse’s office for period products.

Being young and not having easy access to menstrual supplies causes unnecessary worry and stress. I saw first-hand how schools were not making that any better.

If the schools already provided toilet paper for free, a necessary hygiene product, why couldn’t they provide period products for free? Are those not necessary?

I didn’t want to see my peers struggle anymore. I knew that I was going to do everything I could to advocate for free period products in the bathrooms.

I testified at the Capitol!

In January, during the first week of legislative session, the National Council of Jewish Women in Minnesota (NCJW) introduced a bill for menstrual equity in schools, which would require period products be available in K-12 schools. Planned Parenthood partnered with them to help push this bill forward.

Because of my internship at Planned Parenthood and my passion for menstrual equity, my supervisor asked if I would be interested in supporting this bill by testifying at the Capitol. I was floored and honored.

I said yes, joining a group of girls across Minnesota also testifying about this issue.

I wasn’t able to be there in person because I live a few hours from St. Paul; fortunately, I could still testify virtually.

Leading up to the first hearing for the bill, I was nervous but also pumped knowing that legislators would be listening to what I had to say. My voice mattered. I felt a civic duty to represent my peers at Mankato and across schools in Minnesota.

If the schools already provided toilet paper for free, a necessary hygiene product, why couldn’t they provide period products for free? Are those not necessary?

The first day of the hearing, I was still nervous but more ready than anything to testify. I spoke about the many issues my peers face when we don’t have access to menstrual products during the school day, and how it can even impact our learning. My voice shook, and I had butterflies in my stomach, but in the end, it felt rewarding knowing that I stood my ground. I was ready to do it all over again for the following hearings.

A few days after the second and third hearing, I unexpectedly received letters from senators responding to my testimony. Again, I was pleasantly surprised. They wanted me to speak? I felt listened to and respected—it felt amazing.

I kept thinking back to how my voice resonated with the other student activists and legislators in the Capitol. Planned Parenthood wouldn’t have been able to connect me with an opportunity like this without their network of donors, supporters, and community partners.

The day of the signing

A few months later, I was ecstatic when I heard news that the bill had passed! And better yet—I was invited to the signing. Once again, I was eager to continue being involved in the fight to end period poverty.

The energy was overwhelming that day. When Governor Tim Walz lifted his pen to sign the bill, it felt amazing. I looked around the room, and I could see the excitement and relief among the girls around my age who also testified.

Many young people before me have been fighting to end period poverty in schools, so to experience this major milestone for myself felt surreal.

Once summer break is over, I’ll get to see with my own eyes the menstrual products provided for free in the bathrooms at school for the first time. My peers will be able to tend to their periods and their changing bodies with a little more ease.

The fight isn’t over yet

As an intern with Planned Parenthood this past year, I saw other incredible reproductive rights legislation introduced and passed, including the PRO Act, which codified the right to abortion and other reproductive health care decisions into law, a conversion therapy ban, and protections for patients who travel to Minnesota for the health care they need.

As I prepare for another year interning with Planned Parenthood, I can’t wait to start helping with what’s next in the fight for our rights.

My voice shook, and I had butterflies in my stomach, but in the end, it felt rewarding knowing that I stood my ground.

Reproductive freedom is all about the right to make decisions for yourself about your own body without any barriers. Having access to period products in schools now will eliminate an obstacle suffered by students for too long.

It can feel hopeless when adults are the ones making decisions about our bodies in the courts and at the legislature. Young people across Minnesota, like me, want to make their voices heard. When we organize, protest, and speak our minds, we can create lasting change.

I wouldn’t have been able to testify for menstrual equity at the Capitol and see the Governor sign the education bill if it weren’t for the generosity of donors who make Planned Parenthood possible every day. Planned Parenthood allows young people like me to be heavily involved in the work for public health and learn about what issues are impacting young people today.

Donate to PPMNSAF here.


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