Women Enabled Takes to the Streets to Demand an End to Period Poverty

WEI’s Anna Woodward attends the DC Rally on October 19, 2019. She is wearing white sunglasses and a red shirt and holding up a pink sign.

October 25, 2019 – On October 19, Women Enabled was honored to join over 30 non-profits, student groups, and community organizations to co-host the DC Period Rally on the United States’ first ever National Period Day! Organized by PERIOD Inc. and Seventh Generation, the DC rally was one of 60 rallies throughout 50 states that brought together all different voices to address the challenges of period poverty, menstrual inequality, and harmful stereotypes around periods.

Period poverty is a term used to describe a systematic lack of access to safe and sustained menstrual products due to financial barriers as well as societal attitudes. It includes a deficiency or absence of menstrual hygiene education, sanitary or bathroom facilities, and physical sanitary products.

The list of speakers at the DC Rally was diverse and boasted representatives from large, national organizations such as the National Organization for Women and Planned Parenthood. But, the most impactful speakers were young people under the age of 25 – even under 20 – who are student leaders on campus or who started their own non-profit organizations to fight for gender equality. Throughout all of the speakers, however, one message rang clear: menstrual hygiene is a human right.

A hand holding up a pink sign in front of the US Capitol Building that reads, “prioritize access and women and girls with disabilities in menstrual equality!”

With that understanding, the rally was an inclusive space of respect and recognition that not everyone who bleeds is a woman (like trans, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming people with uteruses), and not all women have periods (due to age, health conditions, or being a trans woman). Instead, the focus was on a larger disparity of access, of dignity and basic health care, and the ways that intersectionality of race, class, location, citizenship, being incarcerated, and more compounds and complicates those relationships.

Women and girls with disabilities face specific difficulties, pressures, and misunderstandings from society about their bodies and their health. This is especially true when it comes to menstrual hygiene. On top of unfair stereotypes about the very existence of menstruators with disabilities as well as their sexuality, menstrual products are often designed with non-disabled menstruators in mind and therefore inaccessible and even unusable. And, to add on to that, those products can be expensive- especially if you have to get new ones every month!

It was especially important for Women Enabled to show up and show out at the Period Rally because women and girls with disabilities are often overlooked and forgotten in these conversations about what is a basic issue of health, dignity, and gender equality. It is crucial that when these conversations happen, women and girls with disabilities are represented and their voices are amplified.

The goals of the Period Rallies and of PERIOD Inc. more broadly are to:

  1. End the “tampon tax” in the 35 remaining states that consider menstrual products a “luxury good” and therefore subject to value-added tax, while other products considered basic necessities enjoy a tax-exempt status
  2. Provide freely accessible menstrual products in every public school, prison, and shelter
  3. Elevate the conversation about period poverty to national and international levels

Women Enabled is proud to stand by these ideals and envisions a world where every person who bleeds can live with dignity, can freely obtain truly accessible products and educational resources, and is empowered to make choices about their own body.

#EndPeriodPovertyNow!

A group photo of members of Women Enabled with Nadya Okamoto, founder and president of PERIOD Inc., and members of MascOff. The group stands in front of the U.S. Capitol building holding signs about menstrual equality.

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