Period Poverty: Barriers to Safe and Equitable Menstrual Hygiene

By Grace Harrison

Period poverty is a term gaining worldwide traction in discussions of public health and gender equality. It refers to the general struggle that people face when they cannot access or afford proper menstrual hygiene products or information about their menstruation. Menstrual product shortages like the tampon shortage created by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the financial burden of purchasing these products, can make them inaccessible to many consumers. Currently, 22 states (Map 1) tax tampons, pads and other necessary period products at rates ranging from 4-7%. The tampon tax, in addition to rising costs of inflation, contribute to period poverty.

The Impacts of Period Poverty

Period poverty impacts mental, physical and social health. The lack of menstrual products and the stigma around menstruation can cause frequent absences from school, work and other activities, causing disruptions to education and creating additional financial strain. More than four out of five teens had personally missed class or knew someone that missed class due to menstrual hygiene products being inaccessible, according to a survey commissioned in the U.S. by Thinx, a period product company, and PERIOD, a nonprofit. When people lack access to pads, tampons or other menstrual products, they may turn to unsanitary substitutes such as old clothes or toilet paper. In addition to the embarrassment and discomfort this may cause, there is potential risk of infection, further deteriorating overall wellbeing.

Period poverty is particularly pervasive for individuals in prisons, detention facilities and homeless shelters. Just 25 states (Map 2) explicitly require state prisons and detention facilities to provide free menstrual hygiene products in sufficient quantity to prisoners. Even so, these products are often of poor quality or the policies are not properly enforced, sometimes leading to the exploitation of prisoners in exchange for menstrual hygiene products.

For individuals experiencing homelessness in any capacity, hygiene – especially menstrual hygiene – becomes difficult. Access to bathrooms, clean water and privacy is limited even in homeless shelters. Hygiene product donations to shelters often do not include period products, making it hard for shelters to meet the needs of the people they serve.

Legislative Action

Thirty-two states and Washington, D.C., have statutes or legislation regarding the provision of free menstrual hygiene products in schools, prisons and/or shelters. Illinois and New York currently maintain the most complete policies, as they require free menstrual hygiene products in schools, shelters and prisons statewide.

Most states requiring menstrual hygiene products in schools utilize district funding. However, policies established in states like Alabama, Colorado and North Carolina rely on grant programs. Several states have established gender-inclusive policies or updated existing policies with gender-inclusive terminology. For example, California, Rhode Island, Washington D.C., and others include gender-neutral school bathrooms as a location requirement for menstrual hygiene supplies. Alternatively, states like Arkansas require schools to make these products accessible in a central or specified location aside from bathrooms so that any student may have access.

Despite efforts by legislators and nonprofit organizations, individuals who menstruate still face daily challenges of sanitation, privacy and access to menstrual hygiene products. More comprehensive and nationwide legislation addressing taxation and provision of products, as well as thorough menstrual health education, is needed to eliminate the frequency of period poverty in the U.S.

On the Road with CSG West: Utah

CSG West conducted its annual visit to the Utah State Capitol last week. On the ground in Salt Lake City, CSG West staff Edgar Ruiz and Will Keyse connected with members and legislative leaders of each of the four caucuses to provide updates on services and programming for the year. They also met with staff from the Governor’s Office and the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel.

CSG staff were grateful to meet with Senate President and past CSG West chair J. Stuart Adams and House Speaker Brad Wilson to discuss policy committees and appointments for the biennium and CSG events in 2023. Staff also connected with Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson, who is a past co-chair of the CSG West Oversight Working Group during her tenure in the Utah Senate.

A highlight of the visit was a luncheon hosted by CSG West and Representative Andrew Stoddard, 2022 Western Legislative Academy (WLA) Class President, for WLA alumni as well as members eligible for this year’s program. Staff also had the opportunity to connect with committee co-chairs Senator Todd Weiler (Westrends Board) and Representative Steve Eliason (Health Committee), as well as Senator Ann Millner (past co-chair of the Education Committee).

The CSG West team appreciated the hospitality and continued engagement from our members in the Beehive state!

Michael Mower, Senior Advisor of Community and Intergovernmental Outreach to Gov. Spencer Cox, Will Keyse and Edgar Ruiz at the office of the Governor

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States Addressing the Teacher Shortage, Part 2: Retention

States seeking to solve the teacher shortage, in addition to facing the long-developing crisis of teacher recruitment, are now also facing a crisis of teacher retention.

Especially in the wake of COVID-19, keeping the teachers hired in any given year is an uphill battle.

The National Education Association (NEA) – the nation’s largest teacher’s union – surveyed its members in February 2022 and found that “more than half (55%) of members plan to leave education sooner than planned” and that “the top issue facing educators right now is burnout.”

States across the nation are seeking solutions to improve teacher retention, with research and state examples providing a wide array of options and approaches to choose from. Two key strategies emerging from those examples are:

Supporting career development opportunities through mentoring programs
Improving working conditions for teachers by:

increasing teacher capacity by providing support staff and reasonable class sizes
increasing teacher opportunities to participate in the school decision-making process
supporting administrator training and development

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States Addressing the Teacher Shortage, Part 1: Recruitment

States across the U.S. are considering solutions to address potential teacher shortages. While the extent of the shortage differs from state to state, teacher shortages are most severe in subject areas such as math, science, special education and English language development.

The source of teacher shortages is twofold: waning teacher recruitment and poor teacher retention rates.

In March 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported that 44% of schools were reporting teacher vacancies. Resignation is the leading cause of vacancies accounting for 51% of reported vacancies, and retirement is reported for 21% of vacancies. NCES Commissioner Peggy G. Carr cites the COVID-19 pandemic as a source for these shortages. Other reports note a variety of factors contributing to declining teacher recruitment and retention, such as working conditions, financial compensation and inadequate preparation and support for new teachers.

As turnover rates increase and recruitment decreases, schools are often forced to increase class sizes while decreasing student supports. In addition, many schools are left to fill vacancies with underqualified teachers, which also contributes to higher turnover rates.


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Binational, bipartisan group of legislators in place to lead Great Lakes Caucus over next two years

With staff support from CSG Midwest, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Legislative Caucus works to strengthen the role of state and provincial legislators in advancing Great Lakes-related policies in areas such as controlling the spread of invasive species, protecting drinking water, managing nutrient pollution and improving coastal resiliency.

Leading that work is a select group of legislators serving on the GLLC’s Executive Committee. That leadership team is now in place for the next two years, and includes six new members:

Québec MNA MNA Joëlle Boutin
Ohio Sen.  Theresa Gavarone
Michigan Rep. Rachel Hood
Minnesota Sen. Mary Kunesh
Pennsylvania Sen. Daniel Laughlin
Wisconsin Rep. Lisa Subeck

The Executive Committee’s two officers are Wisconsin Sen. André Jacque, GLLC chair; and Illinois Sen. Laura Fine, GLLC vice chair.

In addition to these two officers and the six new members, other legislators from across the Great Lakes basin are returning to serve second terms on the GLLC Executive Committee: Illinois Rep. Sonya Harper, Indiana Rep, David Abbott, New York Sen. Mark Walczyk and Ontario MPP Jennifer French. The Executive Committee also includes three ex officio members, all of whom are past chairs of the GLLC: Illinois Rep. Robyn Gabel, Indiana Sen. Ed Charbonneau and Minnesota Sen. Ann Rest.

Learn more about the GLLC

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On the Road with CSG West: New Mexico

Two weeks ago, staff from CSG West conducted their annual state visit to the Land of Enchantment. Edgar Ruiz and Martha Castañeda connected with legislators February 7th-9th.

New Mexico’s first session of the 56th Legislature kicked off January 17 and will run for 60 days, until March 18th. As of the halfway point of the session, lawmakers had filed over 1000 bills and other measures. In even years, such as next year’s, the session is limited to 30 days and focused on the state’s budget.

New Mexico is in the enviable position of having a significant budget surplus. Just in the first four months of 2022, more than $1.7 billion were added as a result of oil and gas revenues from the Permian basin. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, New Mexico’s Permian basin produces the most oil than any other region nationwide and is second to the Appalachia region in gas production. Recognizing that this windfall is one time money make the budget process tricky for policymakers.

Many of the same issues other states are weighing are on this year’s legislative agenda in Santa Fe. Among them are daylight savings time, gun safety, changes to pretrial detentions, reducing gross receipts tax, reproductive rights, and voting access just to name a few. A bill adding an official state aroma to the list of more than 20 state symbols was getting a lot of attention. Senate Bill 188, sponsored by CSG West legislative liaison Senator Bill Soules of Las Cruces, and has garnered nationwide attention. In this NPR Weekend Edition interview with Scott Simon, Senator Soules explains the idea originated in a fifth grade classroom which invited him in November to learn what it’s like being a state senator. This is civics lesson the kids won’t soon forget, as a handful of the kids from that class at Monte Vista Elementary in Las Cruces spoke in support of the bill in front of the Senate Indian, Rural and Cultural Affairs Committee.

CSG West staff met with many members, both new and others that have been engaged with CSG West over time. The new Speaker of the House, Representative Javier Martinez, who is a 2017 graduate of the CSG Henry Toll Fellowship, was generous with his time in meeting with staff. Speaker Martinez has represented Albuquerque’s House District 11 since 2015 and previously served as Majority Floor Leader.

The Henry Tolls Fellowship Program is named after former Colorado Senator Henry Wolcott Toll, who founded CSG in 1933. The program is one of the nation’s premier leadership development programs for state government officials. Each year, the program gathers 48 of the nation’s top officials from all three branches of state government in Lexington, Kentucky for an intensive five-day “leadership boot camp.”

Staff met with House Minority Floor Leader Ryan Lane who is a 2022 graduate of the Western Legislative Academy (WLA). The WLA was established in 2000 at a time when many Western states had term limits in place. It is open to legislators in their first four years of cumulative service on a competitive basis as there are four slots available per state to fill. The goals of the program are to help legislators become more effective leaders and, in turn, build strong legislative institutions. It’s held in annually in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and includes experts in state legislatures, communications, time and focus management, governance, ethics, and negotiations.

Staff also met with key legislative staff such as the director of the Legislative Council Service (LCS), Raúl Burciaga, who previously served as Chair of CSG West’s Legislative Service Agency and Research Directors Committee.

From Left to Right: Senator Harold Pope, Edgar Ruiz,
Martha Castañeda and Senator Bill Soules

The post <strong>On the Road with CSG West: New Mexico</strong> appeared first on CSG West.

Southern Pulse Newsletter, February 2023


This February the CSG South team has been traveling nonstop across the south to meet members in the thick of their own labor of love: working through the legislative session! We thank our legislators and legislative staffers from Virginia, West Virginia, Missouri, Kentucky, and Mississippi for taking time out of their incredibly busy schedules to meet with us. We can’t wait to sit down with Arkansas, Oklahoma, and North Carolina in the coming weeks!

On February 1st, we officially launched registration for the most anticipated regional conference in the nation. The 2023 Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) will be held over five action-packed days in stunning Charleston, South Carolina, and the registered attendees are already pouring in! Make sure you secure your hotel accommodation and your guest, spouse, and youth spots in one of our many off-site activities. Register here, and be sure to explore the schedule, keynote speakers, and more!

From state visits, one-on-one meetings, policy info requests, and SLC planning, we are proud to showcase the wealth of ways we are here for Southern legislators and staff.

Stay connected and see you soon!

Click here to read Southern Pulse- February 2023

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