THHS PERIOD club holds rally for menstrual rights, featuring Congresswoman Grace Meng

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On May 26, members of Townsend Harris High School’s PERIOD Club held a rally during fifth band with Congresswoman Grace Meng, team members of, and the Alliance for Period Supplies. The event addressed issues of menstrual hygiene, access, and health. Along with Congresswoman Meng, speakers included health teacher Maria Assante, junior Madeline Cannon, and sophomore Kaia Lain. 

The press conference was intended to raise awareness about period poverty, furthering menstrual equity through education, advocacy, and service. The press conference was organized by the THHS PERIOD Club, the school chapter of the organization PERIOD. The club advocates to “break the stigma surrounding menstruation and provide menstrual hygiene products to menstruators in need.” 

Katherine Lipinski, advisor of the PERIOD Club and English teacher said, “The press-conference raised awareness of period poverty and amplified the students’ message. [They] were able to share their activism with an even wider audience.” 

President of the PERIOD club Madeline Canon said, “Speaking alongside Congresswoman Meng to advocate for the ‘Menstrual Equity For All’ Act was incredibly exciting and rewarding, especially with all the work Period Club has done this year.” She highlighted the accomplishments of the club, saying “We’ve really worked to open discussion about menstrual health and improve access with the Menstruation Station in the library and donating 350+ period packages to Queens housing shelters.”

“We came here today to support this issue and make sure that the students here know that we stand behind them,” Ameer Abdul, National Campaign Manager of PERIOD, a global youth-powered nonprofit focused on eradicating period poverty said. “We have over 400 chapters all over the world, working on this issue every single day… run by youth activists, like everyone here, doing work on the ground and speaking to legislators and school administrators, making sure that they understand the importance of this.”

Jennifer Gaines, Program Director at Alliance for Period Supplies, works towards ending period poverty and setting menstruating individuals free from limitations. She said, “We work to expand legislation that only increases period products for everyone, specifically for students and low income families. Most importantly, we want to make sure that we elevate the voices of students that need the product, that distribute the product, and raise awareness of this issue.”

A key advocate for opening discussions on menstrual health access to period products for those who are unable to afford them, Congresswoman Grace Meng emphasized the importance of making menstrual products more available at the conference. She said, “It is unacceptable that in 2021, one in four American students can’t afford period products. That is a quarter of all students missing class, [having] extracurricular activities and their academic journey disrupted because they don’t have access to these products.” 

Congresswoman Grace Meng also praised the THHS PERIOD Club in their efforts to create lasting and necessary changes in the fight against period poverty. She recounted a conversation with a young woman who brought to her attention the lack of access to products that menstruators in homeless shelters face. “It is because of her that we worked on this issue and were able to pass legislation to allow many employees health and flexible spending accounts to now include the purchase of [menstrual products].”

Reflecting on the conference, teachers and students involved emphasized the importance of having legislators participate in these rallies. 

Freshman Adiana Johnson, a member of the PERIOD Club said, “It truly means a lot to me and the members of PERIOD because we don’t always receive support from politicians and those who can truly make a difference. The products we do donate to students are all provided by donations, therefore, we cannot help everyone. This is a problem that needs to be addressed on a national level and having Grace Meng here today is a step in the right direction.”

Principal Brian Condon expressed his gratitude to Congresswoman Grace Meng. “I’m happy that we’ve gotten to support that [effort] and have a club filled with students led by a teacher that addresses those issues,” he said. “It’s always great to have support from elected officials, especially at the federal level. I think that the congress woman has the concerns of constituents and is trying to make a change that will improve the quality of their lives.”

Ms. Assante, a health educator for 30 years, found the event very empowering and positive, expressing her gladness to join. She said, “My hope is that the event will change any negative perceptions of a very natural and normal event; a monthly occurrence that basically every woman experiences for over 35 years of their lifetime.” 

The club hosts annual “Period Packing Parties” where students package menstrual supplies into brown paper bags and fill each with enough products to last an average menstrual cycle. Recently, the club has launched a ‘Menstruation Station’ that stores menstrual supplies for students to access throughout the day, relieving financial and mental burdens. It can be found in the library, and is a box filled with a variety of vital menstrual items.

Photo courtesy of the THHS PERIOD club