This year, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) approved funding to provide free menstrual hygiene products to 37 schools through their Menstrual Hygiene Pilot Program, which will be available in bathrooms across the school district.
Though the program does not extend to Marshall, school board member Ryan McElveen said on Twitter it is only one step towards menstrual hygiene affordability and availability.
“While every school currently provides [pads and tampons] in clinics, we hope to continue expanding pad and tampon access in restrooms in pursuit of menstrual equity,” McElveen said.
At Justice High School, Girl Up, an international organization of young women, worked to make feminine hygiene products more accessible to students by stocking each bathroom with pads and tampons.
“I joined Girl Up because I wanted to see these kinds of changes at Marshall,” senior and club president Haley Long said. “As the president, last year, I was in charge of doing a menstruation product drive to bring to a local women’s shelter.”
Prior to the Menstrual Hygiene Pilot Program, girls could only go to school clinics for pads and tampons, resulting in students missing an excessive amount of class time to visit the nurse.
“This is important to me because it’s an [area] of healthcare that is often dismissed as a women’s issue and being such a taboo thing that we can no longer talk about,” senior Redeit Hailu said. “FCPS has now acknowledged that [having access to feminine products] is a basic right.”
Justice Girl Up began supplying each of the 13 bathrooms with bins full of free feminine hygiene products with help from English teacher and Girl Up sponsor Jen Golobic. Last year, the founder of Bringing Resources to Aid Women’s Shelters (BRAWS), a non-profit organization, contacted Girl Up to partner up and extend the program beyond schools.
“Through our partnership with [BRAWS], the students were able to take the advocacy beyond Justice,” Golobic said. “We actually had a group that went to the U.S. Capitol […] to speak at Representative Grace Meng’s press conference for the Menstrual Equity For All Act.”
Girl Up then contacted school board member Karen Keys-Gamarra because she was also trying to enact a similar program county-wide. After presenting her with data from a survey regarding the program and its influence, Golobic said Keys-Gamarra brought the information to the board.