Merici College students lead the way on tackling period poverty.

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Year 8 students at Merici College Mia Kelly, Ruby Budd, Elly Persson, and Asha Freeman discuss the issue of period poverty and what they have done at their school to address it, aiming to “change the world, one bathroom at a time!”

As part of our Year 8 Civics and Citizenship project at Merici, we were asked to create a campaign about a social issue related to Parliament. We were going to look at doing a campaign on the ‘Pink Tax’ but after researching, we found that it had already been axed through the efforts of Share the Dignity. We then turned our attention to the overall costs of sanitary products and began our campaign.

When we submitted our assignment, which included a petition, website and a letter to our Principal, Mrs Masters.

Merici College’s #PeriodPower left to right: Mia Kelly, Ruby Budd, Elly Persson, and Asha Freeman

As part of the assignment we conducted research on how much women on average spend on feminine hygiene products each year and we were shocked by the results.

Our research showed that cumulatively, women in Australia, aged 12-52, spend around $1.6 billion each year, out of the $20.6 billion of the worldwide expenditure. From all our research, it was also apparent to us that feminine hygiene products are not fully accessible to all at the College. We passionately believe that feminine hygiene products should be free for all.

Women around the world are constantly told that periods should be a shameful time for them. On the other hand, young men are taught that growing up is an exciting time for their bodies. We are aiming to spread awareness to all females that they should feel comfortable about menstruation and we are currently working on a school project. This could impact people positively with costs, comfort, and confidence.

We believe that all young girls, women, and others, should learn the positive effects a period can bring, instead of always hearing the negatives. To achieve our goal, we are committed to do whatever we can to create a world in which all women can access feminine hygiene products free of cost, especially those in domestic violence shelters, and those on the streets.

So, we presented our proposal to Mrs Masters and she fully supported us. We then started working on our awareness campaign with posters designed to be displayed around the school, as well as on the College’s and our social media platforms.

On Monday 25 July we were excited (and nervous) about presenting the campaign to the whole school during an assembly where we launched our program, within our school bathrooms. Our aim is to change our world one bathroom at a time.

Principal of Merici College Anna Masters with Year 7 students.

We have set up a trial where dispensers have been installed with free feminine products in one of the bathrooms for all students to access. An Australian company, Pixii, is supporting our initiative by providing the dispensers and sustainable, biodegradable feminine products. Eventually our goal is to place dispensers in every bathroom at the College. We also plan to take this idea to Parliament in the hope that our politicians will consider doing this in public bathrooms around not only across the ACT, but across the whole of Australia.

We are so very pleased to have learned that Member for Yerrabi Suzanne Orr MLA has introduced a Private Members Bill, The Period Products and Facilities (Access) Bill 2022, which seeks to end period poverty in the ACT. This Bill relates directly to what we are aspiring to achieve with our campaign and we feel so proud the ACT Government is taking action.

Having read the article posted on HerCanberra on 2 August, “ACT woman Tahlia has lived a life of period poverty and period shame”, we were heartbroken to learn about Tahlia’s struggle through menstruation and we all agree that no woman should have to go to those extents for their hygienic needs.

The article also reiterated what we have learned through our research, that women generally do not feel comfortable discussing periods. We want to encourage an open conversation about getting your period and all that comes with it. We want to keep the conversation going, breaking down the barriers, so that all women are supported in any way possible.

Many can’t afford to buy the products, so by the College providing these products for free to the girls, and placing them in an easily accessible location, this is a huge step forward in us reaching one main goal; for all the world to support women and put an end to period poverty.

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