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Health, Science and Technology

Local drive to collect menstrual products addresses ‘period poverty’ in SLO County

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Courtesy: San Luis Obispo County Commission on the Status of Women and Girls
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Mayor Heidi Harmon participating in the 2018 menstrual product collection drive for ECHO.

The San Luis Obispo County Commission on the Status of Women and Girls is holding a panel and menstrual product collection drive to address ‘period poverty.’

The Commission defines ‘period poverty’ as an inability to get these kinds of products due to lack of access and financial resources that impacts women, girls and gender-diverse people who menstruate.

Andrea Chmelik is the chair of the SLO County Women’s Commission. She said the panel and drive are meant to spark dialogue and provide necessary resources to the community.

“Hopefully, by having the conversation, [it will create] a little bit less of a stigma to discuss the topic, think about the topic and to realize that there are issues that people in our community deal with and that they can be approached from different angles,” Chmelik said.

The panel will include Assemblymember Christina Garcia, and representatives of El Camino Homeless Shelter in Atascadero (ECHO) and the Community Action Partnership of SLO (CAPSLO). Chmelik said they will discuss challenges in achieving period equity and offer potential solutions.

The Women’s Commission held a similar drive in 2018 to collect menstrual products for ECHO Shelter in Atascadero. Chmelik said they are holding the drive again because the need has increased as a result of the pandemic.

This time, the Commission will expand distribution of the products to women's shelters, homeless shelters, food banks, family resource centers, schools and other service providers in San Luis Obispo County.

A recent study by the Alliance for Period Supplies shows that about 2 in 5 people who menstruate struggle to purchase period products due to lack of income.

According to that same study, 1 in 5 low-income menstruators report missing work, school or similar commitments due to a lack of access to menstrual products.

A 2021 study done by Kotex, a company that sells menstrual hygiene products, shows that period poverty has increased by 35 percent since 2018 in the United States.

Chmelik called these numbers mind-blowing. She said she knows there is a need for period products locally and she hopes the panel and drive will create awareness about affordability and access.

“How many times do we find ourselves in a situation where our periods start and we do not have a pad or a tampon in a bag? If you go to any public restroom, you expect that there will be toilet paper there and there will be soap there because those are basic hygiene items that we all expect to be there,” Chmelik said. “Well maybe we should start thinking about period products being present there as well.”

The panel will be held via Zoom on August 18 from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. It’s free and anyone can attend.

The drive will be held on August 27 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Unopened menstrual products like pads, tampons, menstrual cups, liners, or new period underwear will be accepted at the Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo, Atascadero and Paso Robles City libraries.

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