Less than a month ago, Scotland became the first country to pass legislation making menstrual products free to everyone across the country.
Now, Santa Clara County supervisors will consider funding a program that follows in Scotland’s footsteps, providing free period products to low-income women.
Santa Clara County Board President Cindy Chavez said the program would take $1 million from the county’s contingency fund to purchase and distribute period products through June 2021. Chavez said she’s also ready to explore options to fund the program beyond this fiscal year.
“Periods don’t stop during a pandemic, which is why we want the county to make this investment right away,” Chavez said. “There shouldn’t be any shame or stigma attached to menstruating or period products. It’s a natural bodily function.”
More women than ever are experiencing “period poverty,” the term for when a woman can’t afford feminine hygiene products along with other necessities, such as food and shelter, Chavez said.
The county would partner with groups such as FIRST 5 Santa Clara County, community health clinics and the Valley Homeless HealthCare Program, among others, to distribute products.
California has been on track to providing more equitable access to menstrual hygiene products since then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation in 2017 requiring all Title I schools to offer free menstrual products in student bathrooms.
Meanwhile, sales taxes for pads, tampons and diapers have been eliminated in the statewide 2020-21 budget. But unless passed as legislation, or removed from the next budget cycle, those sales taxes could be reinstated.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdowns began early this year, 18-year-old Santa Clara resident Siya Sharma has raised thousands to buy menstrual products and distribute them at food pantries, foster care facilities, homeless shelters and soup kitchens.
“I envision a community where people will never have to compromise on necessities like food or shelter to maintain their periods,” Sharma said. “My small fundraiser resulted in access for so many people. I can just imagine what a $1 million fund would have toward this disparity.”
Sharma said menstrual hygiene is a health care issue, and funding free period products is socially responsible.
Chavez said many young women were accessing affordable or free products while at school. But since schools have been shut down during the pandemic, that access point has been eliminated for thousands of students.
According to a county study, a woman spends $13.25 on average every month on menstrual products.
The supervisors will take up the topic at their meeting on Dec. 14 at 9:30 a.m. Meeting agendas, documentation and ways to watch can be found here.