What community group are you working with to distribute the donation?
Dignity Matters, Inc.
Their mission is to provide women and girls who are homeless or living in poverty with a reliable supply of monthly menstrual care and underwear – removing a significant barrier to them leading a full, productive, and healthy life. Dignity Matters raises awareness about period poverty, or lack of access to menstrual care, at the local and state level and is supportive of legislation currently being considered by the state of MA to provide free menstrual care in bathrooms at shelters, prisons, and public schools as a matter of public health. Established in 2016, Dignity Matters is the largest organization in the state focused solely on providing free monthly menstrual care for the women that we serve, currently supporting 15,000 each month. Dignity Matters distributes to a diverse network of 170 non-profits including homeless and domestic-violence shelters, public schools, medical clinics, and food pantries. Dignity Matters’ ultimate goal is to ensure that every local woman in need has free access to period protection and undergarments every month.
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Why is it important to address this issue in your community?
Lack of access to menstrual protection is a “deal breaker” for women in need. 40% of sheltered homeless women work in some capacity but may be forced to skip work when they have their period. Over 38% of low-income women report missing work and school due to a lack of access to period supplies. To consistently access education, job training, or other services, homeless and low-income women and girls must have reliable access to menstrual care and underwear. Nearly a quarter of all teenage girls, up from 1 in 5 just 2 years ago, cannot afford to purchase menstrual care products. The report “State of the Period” clearly details the physical and mental health issues caused by period poverty, including illness, infection, incontinence, shame, bullying, and depression. “There is an increased risk of vaginal infection, urinary tract infection, skin infection,” Dr. Anne Sebert-Kuhlmann found after conducting the largest study to date on menstrual health inequity.
Females in Massachusetts are 23% more likely to live in poverty than males. Poverty and homelessness are rising in MetroWest. According to Data USA females ages 15-54 make up 32% of the population living below the poverty line. In Needham they account for 30.18% of the population, Bellingham 23.3%, Franklin 26.9%.
As the financial impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt throughout our area, and inflation and rising costs persist, it is the most vulnerable populations who are the hardest hit. The Greater Boston Food Bank released a report in June 2022 stating that 1 in 3 adults are food insecure. The rates for minorities were higher: Black – 53%, Latinx – 61%, LGBTQ+ – 51%. 40% of households with children were food insecure. If you are food insecure, you are hygiene insecure. This is compounded by the fact that SNAP and WIC benefits – the most significant source of government support for these women and families – cannot be used to purchase menstrual care or underwear. Most food pantries and shelters cannot afford to purchase menstrual care or underwear for distribution and these items are rarely donated to them.
What are you doing as an elected official to support policy measures that impact period product access?
Work on Reproductive Justice has long been one of my top priorities, and that includes addressing period poverty and enhancing period product access in my district and throughout the Commonwealth. I am a proud co-sponsor of the I AM bill (S1381), which would provide free period products to all menstruators in prisons, shelters, and schools. I also champion legislation enhancing access to post-pregnancy mental health care (S708), midwifery care and other out-of-hospital birth options (S1457), abortion access (S1114), and training on reproductive and gender-affirming care (S212). I am committed to addressing gaps in access to health care, particularly for menstruators across the Commonwealth.
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