COLUMBUS, Ohio — Thanks to a few students at The Ohio State University, many high schoolers in the state will have one less thing to worry about.
According to the PERIOD., a nationwide organization fighting period poverty, one in four teens has missed class because they didn’t have access to a menstrual product. Ohio students will be taken out of that equation during the 2023-2024 school year.
Ohio State students helped secure $5 million in the state budget that will now be allocated for free period products in Ohio schools.
First-year medical student Anusha Singh has always felt a stigma around menstruation.
“I remember leaving my fifth grade classroom where we learned about periods for the first time, and our teachers instructing us to be hush-hush about what we learned about,” she said.
After really questioning that stigma, founding PERIOD.’s OSU chapter, and becoming a TEDx contributor, she partnered with her fellow Buckeyes to make sure students who menstruate don’t have to miss class because they can’t afford pads or tampons.
“We started really turning up the heat, sending a lot of emails, making sure that we were especially engaging with staff,” said Ella Roxey, the vice president of PERIOD. at OSU.
Roxey helped spearhead talks with lawmakers in the Ohio Senate, and to her surprise, support was “incredibly bipartisan.”
“That was always something that I felt really strongly about because this really shouldn’t be a partisan issue," she said. “It should really just be a human rights issue. It should not be scandalous or deeply political. It should just be something that we focus on because our women and girls deserve to stay in school.”
Now, girls across Ohio in sixth through 12th grades are getting a better chance at succeeding in school.
Schools in the state will get $2 million for period product dispensers and $3 million for the products themselves — making the funding total $5 million.
Singh said this is a step in the right direction with more work ahead.
“Students should be able to achieve their full potential regardless of a natural need,” she said.
Ella and Anusha’s next step is to talk with as many school districts as they can to make sure the period products are actually put in bathrooms and not just nurses offices, as they often are.
They said this whole effort is about accessibility.