Menstrual products will be available for free in all Salem, Mass., school buildings this year, thanks to three 11-year-old girls.
Hats off to the trio — Aleza Baez Baez, Dariely Moronta Espinal and Alice Camilo Linares — for accomplishing what state legislators could not.
The girls were all fifth-graders at Horace Mann Elementary School last year, and their project grew out of an English class writing assignment.
“Alice chose a topic of ‘menstrual products should be free,’” Dariely told reporter Dustin Luca. “Then we decided to write about that too, and it sort of turned bigger, and bigger, and bigger.”
Eventually, the girls were put in contact with Aunt Flow, a company working to make tampons available in all public restrooms. There were plenty of meetings with teachers and administrators, followed by school assemblies and demonstrations led by the girls on what the dispensers were, why they were being installed, and how to responsibly use them. The devices are now installed in all the schools.
This is no small thing.
Lack of access to menstrual products is a problem nobody seems to talk about (unless, of course, you are an 11-year-old Salem student). A survey of 230 schools conducted by the state chapter of the National Organization for Women found the majority of school nurses, or 56%, personally knew of a student who had missed class because they were looking for menstrual products.
Then there are the consequences of being forced to make unhygienic adjustments, including reproductive tract infections and increased risk of human papillomavirus, the infection that brings with it a heightened cancer risk.
A bill that would have required Massachusetts schools, shelters and prisons to stock the items passed the state Senate but was never taken up by the House before the legislative session ended this summer.
Three Salem girls, however, were able to succeed where lawmakers could not. There is a lesson here.
“There are some people that are going to be disgusted or annoyed that we’re doing this,” Dariely said. “But there are some adults that are like, ‘Oh, I’m grateful to the people who are doing this or who helped do this.’ They’re thankful they’re there.”