Hawai’i is gearing up to join the menstrual movement with legislation aimed at reducing the impact that unsupported menstruation has on Hawai’i students.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, poverty levels in Hawai’i have risen dramatically with 59% reporting that they are struggling to get by. Ma’i Movement Hawai’i is an organization that is taking aim at menstrual inequity and working to understand the prevalence of period poverty. In a recent survey, Ma’i Movement Hawai’i found that 18% of respondents have had to prioritize other necessities, like food and shelter, over period products with 1 in 5 reporting that somebody in their household had difficulties accessing period products. Ma’i Movement Hawai’i also noted that a whopping 82% of respondents felt as though schools should make menstrual products accessible and cost-free. Senator Laura Acasio agrees, and has been working to pass legislation in the Hawaiian State Senate to require the Department of Education to make menstrual products freely available to students on secondary school campuses.
Senate Bill 966 (S.B. 966) was introduced by Senator Acasio in January of 2021 as a part of the latest legislative effort in Hawai’i to address the impact that unsupported menstruation has on student’s quality of education. 211 individuals submitted testimony as to why this legislation was important, with Hawai’i resident Donia stating,
“No menstruating person should be forced to miss school due to lack of period products. It should be accessible to all students that need them including students whose family cannot afford them.”
School nurse Carly stated,
“I am a nurse and believe period products are essential for young women to be comfortable in schools. Having reassurance that such products are available to them through their school regardless of socioeconomic status removes a huge stressor and has the potential to enhance learning.”
Unfortunately, even with massive public support for this legislation, S.B. 966 did not progress, as it was referred to committee and no hearing was scheduled. Senate Concurrent Resolution (S.C.R.) 100 and Senate Resolution (S.R.) 77 were then introduced by Senator Acasio and colleagues in March of 2021 to ensure future conversations surrounding menstrual equity in all public schools occur. The State House has also introduced companion resolutions to accompany the State Senate Resolutions with H.C.R. 178 and H.R. 147 being set in motion by Representative Perusso and colleagues. The passage of these resolutions indicates that future legislation has a fighting chance in the Hawaiian State Legislature. Despite this hopeful sign of change on a legislative level, people with periods in Hawai’i need help now.
There are several folks who are spearheading the menstrual movement in Hawai’i and who are actively supporting their communities’ menstrual needs. Nikki-Ann Yee and her sisters founded Ma’i Movement Hawai’i in October of 2020 with the purpose of understanding and eliminating period poverty in Hawai’i. Ma’i Movement Hawai’i aims to support with educational resources, menstrual products, and period poverty studies to understand and reduce the impact that unsupported menstruation has on the residents of Hawai’i. To date, Ma’i Movement Hawai’i has donated over 60,000 products to menstruators in need.
Another menstrual movement champion is teacher Sarah Milianta-Laffin of Ilima Intermediate School. Sarah and her students have provided legislative testimony and have organized to bring awareness to the struggle of students who do not have access to quality, free menstrual products. In the summer, Sarah will be representing Hawai’i at the 2021 Annual NEA Conference where she hopes to draw national attention to the significance of the menstrual movement in Hawai’i.
Pictured from R: Sarah Milianta-Laffin and students pose with Representative Perusso after testifying.
The fight against period poverty is more critical now than ever, as pandemic related unemployment has put more and more people in the difficult position of having to prioritize food and shelter over other basic necessities. Ma’i Movement Hawai’i Co-Founder Nikki-Ann Yee stated,
“Hawai’i is renowned for its beauty and tranquility around the world, but there is a cost to living in paradise. As women who were born and raised in Hawai’i, and of native Hawaiian descent, we understand the struggles of local families all too well. We truly believe that the same families struggling to cover basic needs are the same families that will suffer in silence with period poverty. We call on the community to stand with us because no one deserves to feel any less or suffer unnecessarily for their biology or household situation.”
Aunt Flow agrees – no one should EVER be forced to choose between food and tampons, which is why we’re working hard to make sure everybody has access to free, quality menstrual products when they need them. PERIOD.
Interested in helping out? Here are some direct ways that you can support people living with period poverty in Hawai’i right now:
- Sign on with the Ma’i Movement Hawai’i as an organization or business
- Check out the MĀLAMA YOUR MA’I campaign and get involved today
- Check out this list and contact Hawai’i State Representatives to advocate for legislation mandating free menstrual products in public schools
Based in Hawai’i and want to get a menstrual equity plan in place? Aunt Flow has you covered. GET A QUOTE today!