On Feb. 1, Southern Utah University’s Interim President Mindy Benson and Vice Chair Nina Barnes held a luncheon in honor of the Utah Period Project, a campaign spearheaded by The Policy Project working to end period poverty in the state of Utah.
The policy initiative’s goal is to supply free menstrual products in Utah’s elementary, middle and high schools. The organization recently sponsored HB 162 in the Utah legislature and are visiting universities across the state to share more about their mission with leaders in higher education.
“This bill will require that Utah schools supply tampons and pads in their girls’ and all-gender bathrooms,” explained project leader Mary Catherine Perry. “Our goal is to speak so loudly that everyone can’t help but hear our message.”
As part of the program, Student Body President Nouman Kante addressed the audience that was, comprised of administrators, students and community members.
“We’re going to address this at a college level here at SUU,” Kante said. “On behalf of the Utah Student Association, we thank the Period Project for allowing us to be involved in this important work.”
The campaign has recently gained massive financial and social support, even garnering a promised $2 million in donations from the Larry H. & Gail Miller Foundation to help fund the installation of product dispensers. The bill also passed unanimously in the House and is currently dependent on a Senate vote.
“Periods are not a comfortable topic, but they are something that half of Utahns experience,” said Emily McCormick, founder of The Policy Project. “It’s a public health issue that hasn’t been widely addressed in policy.”
McCormick said that data shows that one in four teens cannot afford the period products they need, causing them to frequently miss classes or school. Institutions provide toilet paper, she explained, so why not other basic human necessities?
“We know that we have kids standing in the free lunch line because of their families’ low-income status but what we don’t realize is that those same kids are experiencing period poverty too,” said Kristin Andrus, founder of SisterGoods. “This is a reality in every school in Utah — elementary schools, middle schools and high schools.”
Article and photos by: Aspen English