TAMPA, Fla. — Hundreds of young girls will have access to feminine hygiene products after a Tampa Bay area women's group raised thousands of dollars in donations. This comes as advocacy groups are pushing for schools to help end "period poverty" where girls don't have access to these products across the country.
Ladies of the Heights Happy Hour raised more than $4,000 in donations of pads, tampons and reusable period products for Hillsborough County girls in low-income families. These donations are going into Bay Area schools for teachers to hand out as needed.
This comes as girls are paying the price for not being able to buy these very basic, but often expensive products.
"Many of these girls miss school, get bullied or get held back for something as simple as not having access to feminine products," said Ellie Baggett, founder of Ladies Heights Happy Hour. "They can't afford tampons and pads, so they stay home. Sometimes, these girls are held back for missing too many days."
After the group posted on Facebook, donations poured in both online and through drop-offs at local businesses like the Seminole Heights Athletic Center, Valhalla Resale and Disco Dolls Studio.
"I saw a need and I thought "Well, I can help with that" and so I did," Baggett said. "It only took a little organization and spreading the word. If just one girl is less embarrassed about her period or doesn't miss school because of it, then I've done my job."
Baggett said she has a goal of helping 15 Hillsborough County Schools this year with Title I status.
This comes as a growing number of schools are offering free menstrual products, hoping to meet the needs of low-income students who don't have ready access to tampons and sanitary pads.
Beyond attendance, addressing "period poverty" by providing such products in school restrooms is a way of building "safe and trusted" learning environments for students, a group of youth and women's activists told U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
"Menstrual hygiene products are basic necessities, and the inability to access them affects a student's freedom to study, be healthy, and participate in society with dignity," a team of advocates, including groups like Period, which advocates for education and access to menstrual products; female celebrities; and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, said in a letter to DeVos.
It calls on the federal agency to fund programs that provide free menstrual products in schools and to champion education about periods in schools.
Some schools have already taken such steps. New York City began offering free products in schools in 2016, and New York State later followed its lead in 2018.