COLUMBUS, Ohio — Most people don’t think twice about bathrooms having toilet paper in the United States, but what menstrual products?
10TV talked with one local woman on a mission to change that.
“I’m thinking to myself, ‘If toilet paper is offered for free, why aren’t tampons and pads?’” Claire Coder told 10TV, recalling an embarrassing moment she had in public several years back.
Six years later, Coder is the founder and CEO of Aunt Flow, working to end the stigma around periods and making period products accessible to as many people as they can reach, including students.
“You’re a middle school girl, you get your period, you’re in the bathroom, and then what are you going to do? Walk all the way to the nurse’s office, ask the nurse for a menstrual product, (and then) all the way back to the bathroom? At that point, there’s so much shame filled within that it’s really counterproductive,” Coder said.
A 2021 “State of the Period” research report surveyed 1,010 students who menstruate, between the ages of 13 and 19.
The research found that 23% of students have struggled to afford period products. Sixteen percent have chosen to buy period products over food or clothes as a result of the pandemic.
Seventy percent of students say the school environment makes them especially self-conscious of their periods.
“Thinking about the impact of the pandemic for middle school, elementary school and high school menstruators, it’s really really critical that these products are accessible as they go back because we can see the impact directly in their performance in school and as well as their attendance at school,” Coder said.
Columbus School for Girls is one of several schools in central Ohio partnering with Aunt Flow to reverse that narrative by offering free menstrual products in their bathrooms.
“We serve students from, well, three years old to 18 years old, so all of our students start getting their periods while at CSG,” said Jennifer Ciccarelli, Head of School at Columbus School for Girls. “(In) the beginning, that can feel a little bit awkward. So just the changing of their bodies is awkward for them and then to have to go to an adult and ask for a menstrual product is really a barrier and also, it wastes time.”
One question that came up initially, Ciccarelli told 10TV, was the cost of the school’s partnership with Aunt Flow.
“In terms of general dollar amount, it is roughly $5 to $10 per female student or employee, per year,” Coder said.
It’s a cost, Ciccarelli explained, that is worth it.
“Just like we provide toilet paper and soap and paper towels in our bathrooms, why would we not offer menstrual products to all of our students?” she said.
While Columbus School for Girls has a unique setup for their Aunt Flow products, the company’s dispensers can be found in other local schools like Worthington Schools, Upper Arlington City Schools, Capital University and Otterbein University, to name a few.
Aunt Flow is now serving every state in the U.S. by working with companies like Google, Twitter, Netflix and Disney.
“I believe in a world where there are freely accessible menstrual products wherever you go and we’re going to keep working until we get there,” Coder said.
To learn more about how to partner with Aunt Flow at your school or business, go to the Go Aunt Flow website.