A group of Milton High School sophomores will be addressing the Fulton County School Board to introduce a resolution to increase menstrual product provisions in current school funding plans Dec. 3.
Harshita Challa, Shreeya Movva, Sarayu Ayyalasomayajula, Aanika Eragam and Ishitha Vallurupalli will be addressing the board to introduce provisions of the youth-written resolution.
The resolution includes the mandatory funding of period products in Fulton public schools, the incorporation of menstrual hygiene as part of school health curriculums, and the responsibility of FCS Board Members to push the Georgia State Legislature towards funding menstrual products in schools yearly, as a recurring expenditure.
The resolution, which was written for youth by youth, aims to place period poverty on the agenda and close the gaps between student needs and current FCS menstrual provisions, while affirming the importance of youth as stakeholders in the educational community.
Eragam says the idea was born after she joined the Homegirl Project, a youth lead organization dedicated to getting girls of color involved with politics. The nationwide organization has students leaders all over the country, one of who began a similar initiative in her Florida high school.
“If we’re trying to create change, I think starting small and starting local with our school board is the best way to do it,” Eragam said. “It also gives them a presence that we are youth and we’re going to be stakeholders in our community right now. We’re not just going to wait around for adults to go through the matter. We’re coming up and we’re telling them this is a matter that’s important and needs to be addressed.”
All girls shared similar stories — being surprised by irregular periods and having to uncomfortably track down menstrual products at school. The girls said that Milton High School has product dispensers in the bathrooms, but they are rarely stocked and cost money. Students have the option of going to the nurse, but that still often results in more time out of class without the promise of the nurse having menstrual products in stock.
”You’re spending 20 minutes outside of class when the whole point of school is being in an academic environment where you’re learning things,” Eragam said. “It shouldn’t be a thing where being a girl is going to limit your academic success while in school.”
In addition to students missing class, many students struggle to afford proper period products. Earlier this year, the state announced a $1.5 million budget to help address period poverty. The Georgia Department of Education was given $1 million, and $500,000 went to county level health departments. However, those numbers only leave each school with $200 per year for menstrual products.
According to Lynne P. Meadows, Coordinator of Student Health Services in Fulton County, all Fulton County schools offer and stock free period period products for students in the school clinics.
”All of our school clinics provide menstrual products to students by utilizing their clinic’s budgeted funds, free feminine hygiene programs, and through partnerships with other organizations, programs and resources,” Meadows said.
However, Eragam and her friends say the nurse often runs out of period products.
Around 14% of women have irregular, painful or heavy periods, and most teens have irregular periods during their few few years. Because of this, it can be difficult for young women to be prepared for their periods.
”As you grow up and you mature and start learning that you have to have a period product on you at all times,” Challa said. “But when you first start you period, that’s something you’ve never been used to.”
Challa and her classmates also plan to address the lack of period education students receive in school. Challa said the last time periods were thoroughly talked about in school was during fifth grade — five years ago for Challa and her classmates.
“There such a gap between girls and the guys and that’s part of the reason they’re not considered a necessity,” Eragam said.
Now the girls say the period talks are done through the sex education course, but parents can opt out of their students participating in the course. In addition to education on menstrual hygiene, the girls are calling for educating students about the stigma behind periods.
“Just educating us on what it is and how not to be ashamed of it,” Challa said. “It’s a natural cycle. It happens for every woman on this planet and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s part of your body.”
The students say Eragam and the Homegirl Project have helped them speak out about periods.
“This kind of fellowship, they give anyone (a chance) to have a voice,”Movva said. “Youth especially, being able to realize they can actually change the politics they were raised in helps people.”
Eragam, Challa, Movva, Ayyalasomayajula and Vallurupalli will present their finding to the Fulton County School Board meeting Dec. 3 at 6 p.m. at North Learning Center in Sandy Springs.