Menstrual Equity

Free menstrual products are available in restroom facilities managed by the County of Santa Clara.  Menstruation is a basic bodily function, and menstrual products are as essential as other basic restroom amenities like toilet paper or paper towels, and should be accessible free of charge. Period poverty, or the lack of access to menstrual products, is linked to gender inequity, income inequality, education inequality, and healthcare inequality. The County is committed to ending period poverty and working to create menstrual equity. 

What is menstrual equity?

Menstrual equity refers to equal and comprehensive access to menstrual hygiene products, and to the right to education about reproductive health, which both removes barriers to care and reduces stigma surrounding it. 

 

What is the prevalence of period poverty?

  • Every day, millions of people around the world menstruate, but there are an estimated 500 million people who lack resources to manage their menstruation.i

  • In the United States, studies have been published that show 64% of respondents reporting difficulty affording menstrual products, and 21% reporting that they were unable to afford these products every month.ii

  • Those who have the means to purchase menstrual products must spend a portion of their income on a basic hygiene product, plus tax. Other basic hygiene products (toilet paper, paper towels) are available in restrooms at no cost.

  • At the local level, thousands of our community members need improved access to these products.

  • Poor menstrual hygiene promotes negative health outcomes, including urinary tract infections.

Why should I care?

  • Youth may miss school if they don’t have access to menstrual products or pain medication.

  • Unhoused people have little to no means to access menstrual products.

  • Those who do not have access to or cannot afford menstrual products are restricted in their movement and ambitions, as they may feel unable to leave their homes, go to work, or participate in civic life.

  • Without access to menstrual products, makeshift methods or prolonged use of limited resources can lead to negative health outcomes.

 

What is the County of Santa Clara doing to address period poverty?

In March 2021, the Board approved stocking ALL restrooms in County facilities with free period products, as is done with other hygiene products like paper towels and toilet paper.

The County also dedicated $1.8 million to funding period products for those in need throughout Santa Clara County. Community members in need can receive free menstrual products from the Santa Clara County Office of Education and First 5 through June 2023, and can continue to obtain them through schools and universities and community health partnerships. Since 2020, these organizations have distributed 6 million pads and 2 million tampons to the community.

 

What can I expect to see in restrooms in County facilities?

Dispensers or baskets with free menstrual products are available in County facilities, including women’s restrooms and all-gender restrooms. In the near future, menstrual products will also be available in men’s restrooms.

 

Why will menstrual products be available in men’s restrooms?

The County will offer menstrual products in men’s restrooms, recognizing that transmen, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming people may need them.

Menstrual pads and tampons in a restroom coming from a touch-free dispenser

The World Bank. Menstrual hygiene management enables women and girls to reach their full potential. 2018. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2018/05/25/menstrual-hygiene-management. Accessed March 2, 2023.

ii Sebert Kuhlmann, Anne PhD, MPH; Peters Bergquist, Eleanor MA, MSPH; Danjoint, Djenie MPH; Wall, L. Lewis MD, DPhil. Unmet Menstrual Hygiene Needs Among Low-Income Women. Obstetrics & Gynecology 133(2):p 238-244, February 2019. | DOI: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000003060

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