In June of 2021, a Joint Resolution in the New Jersey Legislature established the last week of May as “Period Poverty Awareness Week.” The resolution acknowledges that poverty exists in NJ and that many do not have adequate access to menstrual products, education, or clean toilets. It also recognizes that menstruators miss school and work due to these issues and that some have to choose between pads and tampons, and food and medicine.
And yet, here we are at the end of the year, and the legislature has still not passed a bill that would make a meaningful impact on the problems, the so-called Menstrual Products in Schools Bill, S692/A3388. Today we’ve asked Laurie Kahn to offer some thoughts on the state of things in New Jersey. Laurie is a fierce menstrual equity advocate and, along with GHGP, is a founding member of the Equality Period-NJ coalition, as well as the past committee chair of the National Council of Jewish Women-Essex, Period.Project.
In November 2016, before the first menstrual equity legislation had even passed in the United States, New Jersey began scripting the preliminary verbiage for its own menstrual equity bill. After meeting with New Jersey State Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, who at the time was the Chair of the Women, Infants and Children Committee, the crusade to provide free menstrual products in all NJ schools began.
Fast forward five years and the bill is on the precipice of becoming law in the Garden State, but we are no longer on the cutting edge of passing sweeping legislation that would help middle and high schoolers in our state have equal access to menstrual products.
Thirteen states in the country, New York, California, Illinois, Tennessee, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Oregon, Nevada, Washington, Arkansas, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, have already passed their own version of a menstrual equity bill.
Like toilet paper, soap, and hand towels, period products are not a luxury; they are basic hygiene necessities. Providing menstrual products in schools affords all students an equal opportunity to learn and study without the monthly burden of obtaining something many people take for granted. Students whose families struggle financially miss class time or skip school, putting them at a greater disadvantage and furthering inequities that already exist.
In March 2021, U.S. News & World Report ranked New Jersey as the “Best State for Education and the 3rd “Richest State in America.” In 2005, NJ abolished the tampon tax, making it one of the first states to do so. What happened? When did our fair state become a follower, not a leader?
The Assembly Women and Children Committee will hopefully hear Bill A3388, the final legislation to provide free menstrual products in all NJ schools, on December 9th. Let’s get this done. Call Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin at 732-855-7441 to ensure that A3388 is put on the committee agenda. If you cannot get through, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Enough is enough.
New Jersey is the home state of Girls Helping Girls. Period. If you’d like more information about the fight for period products in NJ Schools, visit Equality Period-NJ