Copyright Sarah Bones
The Issue: Menstrual Equity and the Importance of Girls’ Education
Women and girls around the world, especially in low income communities, often face a lack of access to menstrual products. Without proper sanitary supplies, they may resort to using newspaper, dirty rags, and even leaves to manage their periods.1 The combination of period poverty, stigmatization, and inadequate reproductive and sexual health education has major consequences for girls’ wellbeing. It can also prevent girls from staying in school therefore ending their education.2
Why is it so important for girls to stay in school?
If girls receive seven full years of education, they will marry an average of four years later and have 2.2 fewer children.3 If they attend just one additional year of secondary school, their lifetime wages could increase by up to twenty-five percent, consequently raising their countries’ GDPs by billions of dollars.4 If India enrolled just one percent more girls in school, their GDP would rise by 5.5 billion dollars.5 It’s simple; educating women and girls has a concrete economic and social impact on individuals, communities and nations.
Through innovation, education, and advocacy, The Pad Project aims to help move towards a world where girls feel empowered in their bodies, achieve economic independence, understand their reproductive and sexual health options, and harness the power to shape their lives.
We work with local partners and NGOs to install machines that are easy to operate, use locally- sourced natural resources to function, and require minimal electricity.
Our pad machines form the cornerstone of our international work. Each partner community has different needs – some for manual, some for semi-automated, and some for fully automated machines.
Each machine employs 6 women and 1 supervisor, enabling them to produce pads for their communities for approximately $.05 each. Workers can decide how and where they would like to sell their pads in order to create more economic opportunities. Communities must partner with local NGOs on the ground to help monitor and ensure the success of their particular program.
The machines both expand access to pads and serve as a catalyst for gender equity. Their implementation helps grant women the personal, economic, and educational tools to spark conversations around menstruation and drive societal change.
1 in 5 American girls have either left school early or missed it entirely because they didn’t have access to sanitary products.6
If girls attend just one additional year of secondary school, their lifetime wages could increase by up to twenty percent, consequently raising their countries’ GDPs by billions of dollars.
At The Pad Project, our goal is to ensure that every girl can attend school. Access to pads allows a girl to feel comfortable and confident in a learning environment, but it is critical to pair menstrual hygiene products with comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) education. Whenever we install a machine, we do so by partnering with established local organizations who can host community led workshops and start dialogue around menstruation and related SRHR education. Our film, Period. End of Sentence., can serve as an entry point for these conversations.
Affordable sanitary products are not a luxury and need to be treated as what they are - a necessity.
Menstrual products are currently taxed in 35 states, while other basic necessities like groceries and medical supplies are not.7 (NY TIMES)
In some states, condoms and Viagra are not taxed whereas pads, tampons, menstrual cups, and other necessary hygiene products are.8
“Using an average state sales tax of 5 percent, Americans who menstruate are spending more than $275 million a year on state taxes on their period products.” Senator Cristina Garcia says, “The ‘tampon tax’ is now “the only gender-specific tax on the books in California.”
“On average, women and people who menstruate spend an estimated $150 million a year just on the sales tax for these items.”9
Menstrual inequity is an issue that is both global and local. According to the National Women’s Law Center, nearly 1 in 8 American women lived in poverty in 2018 and nearly 1 in 3 women of childbearing age were economically insecure (lived below 200 percent of the federal poverty line).10 Women of color are hit hardest by poverty and economic insecurity.11
Tampons, pads, and other feminine hygiene products are not accessible to economically insecure women via food stamps, health insurance, or Medicaid coverage.12 The tax on menstrual health products, or “pink tax,” targets Americans who menstruate and amounts to a financial barrier for menstruators who are unhoused, incarcerated, or are simply struggling to make ends meet.
At The Pad Project, we refuse to accept a world where women have to choose between buying a box of pads or buying their next meal. That’s why we are committed to highlighting existing laws and regulations around periods in the United States and advocating for change.
The Good News: Between 2016 and 2018, 5 states eliminated the tax on period products. In 2019, 22 more states introduced similar legislation.13
We're stronger together
We’re ready to give this project everything we have, but we know we can’t do it alone.
5 US Aid calculates if India enrolled 1% more girls in secondary school, the country’s gross domestic product would rise by $5.5 billion. REFERENCE LINK: https://www.usaid.gov/girl/infographic-ripple-effect
6 https://always.com/en-us/about-us/end-period-poverty; Always Confidence and Puberty Study, Nov. 2017; based on females 16-24 years old; 2016 U.S. census.