Librarians working to end period poverty

Digital illustration of paper cutout figures in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple

One of my always-in-the-know peeps told me about the documentary Period.End of sentence., which relates the stories of women who lack access to feminine hygiene products. Although the documentary’s focus is women in India, the problem is by no means unique to that country. Women around the world go without pads and tampons daily due to lack of access. That includes women here in the U.S. Until 2017, women in U.S. federal prisons had to pay for feminine hygiene products, which undoubtedly limited product access for many women. Because the products cannot be purchased with food stamps, thousands of U.S. women on fixed incomes who do not have access to free products use precious cash resources to cover this very basic need – or do without the products altogether.

Inspired by the film, my peep asked me whether I knew of any libraries accepting feminine hygiene product donations. I told her no but that I would put out a call on the American Library Association (ALA) listserv to see if ALA had a coordinated national effort going. The response I received was immediate and moving. There is no coordinated national effort underway, but librarians are clearly aware of this issue and working to do something about it. I was so inspired by their passion for this topic that I decided to list their ideas, initiatives, and suggestions here.

  • A central Missouri librarian told me about an organization called that distributes products in public bathrooms, at women’s shelters, and at community events.
  • A library in Laurel, Delaware uses funding from the library’s Friends group, library patrons, and community organizations to buy products for their library’s restrooms.
  • At a library in Portland, Oregon, the Makerspace staff started a teen hygiene health center that offers feminine protection products.
  • One librarian pointed out that transgender men often need these products and suggested that the products be offered in all restrooms.
  • Another librarian shared that their library partners with a local organization to offer a free pantry in the library parking lot where women can obtain hygiene products and other items.
  • A librarian in Michigan told me about Alliance for Period Supplies, an organization that gets period products to women who need them.
  • I learned of one place where the teen librarians have set up feminine hygiene centers in women’s bathrooms.

In addition to and Alliance for Period Supplies, Distributing DignityHelping Women Period, and I Support the Girls are all organizations that are helping to get pads and tampons into the hands of women who need them.

If you are looking to give this season, please consider contributing to these organizations or to libraries who are supporting women’s feminine hygiene needs. Let’s put an end to period poverty!

Related links

An in-depth piece about the film, Period. End of Sentence.:

An article about a Scottish council providing free feminine hygiene products:

CBS article and video, “What is Period Poverty?”

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