CBSC menstrual product drive works to address period poverty in Central Ohio

A girl in a bathroom hands a sanitary napkin to another girl.

CBSC menstrual product drive works to address period poverty in Central Ohio

By Paige Galperin

March was Women's History Month, a time for celebrating woman-identifying individuals and discussing their accomplishments and experiences. However, one aspect of many women's lives is often ignored and even silenced by society: menstruation.

“Women and people who menstruate are on our campus. They're students; they're staff; they're faculty; they're visitors; they're alumni. It is an issue that affects everybody, whether you realize that or not,” said Madison Eagle, Coordinator for Belonging and Student Support at The Ohio State University's Center for Belonging and Social Change (CBSC).

Eagle oversees all CBSC Women's History Month programming, including a campus-wide menstrual product drive during the month of March, which she hopes will address issues around menstruation, such as product affordability, period stigma, and product safety.

Although menstruation is a natural, healthy process for women of reproductive age, many structures and institutions fail to treat it as one. Currently, 21 states impose a tax on menstrual products, adding costs to the estimated $9,000 that the average woman spends on period products over the course of a lifetime.

For menstruators living near or below the poverty line, these costs can make menstrual products inaccessible, a condition termed “period poverty.” In the United States, 1 in 4 people who need period products struggle to access them, and in Ohio alone, over 415,000 women of reproductive age are at risk for period poverty.

Access to menstrual products is even more challenging for communities of color, where period poverty is disproportionately experienced by Black and Latine women. And in many parts of the world, such as in war-torn regions, period products are simply unavailable; there, menstruators have been forced to create makeshift products using materials like tents and clothing.

The CBSC's drive seeks to remedy period poverty at least at the local level: All donated products will be distributed to LSS CHOICES, a shelter for victims of domestic violence, and to the Columbus YWCA.

Another goal of the menstrual product drive is to address the stigma around menstruation. “I remember being a young girl and having to hide my tampons in my sleeve to try to go to the bathroom. It was something to be ashamed of and something that you were told to keep hidden,” Eagle recalled, “so I think it's really important to normalize periods.”

Currently, period product safety is a major topic in many dialogues about menstruation. Many menstruators know that regularly changing period products is important for preventing medical complications like toxic shock syndrome, but recent studies have also found that many products contain traces of toxic chemicals that have been linked to hormonal disruption, fertility issues, and even cancer. Policymakers and researchers are still working to address these concerns.

While the CBSC's Women's History Month drive cannot solve all of these problems, it does provide a starting point for addressing period-related concerns in the Columbus area. “Anything helps make a difference for menstruators in our Central Ohio community,” Eagle said. “I'm happy with anyone giving anything they can.”