Recently, the New York City Council made history when it decided to supply menstrual supplies in all city public schools, prisons and homeless shelters. A huge step for women's health and equality, this legislation is unprecedented in the United States.
Proposed by council member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, the legislation passed unanimously and aims to help women and girls by providing them with access to basic hygienic products that are necessary for everyday living. According to Ferreras-Copeland, "Menstrual hygiene products are as necessary as toilet paper, and no one is freaking out about toilet paper."
3. Toilet Paper Is Complimentary, Why Not Tampons?
Toilet paper is never seen as a luxury, but rather a hygienic necessity. In schools and most public buildings, toilet paper is provided in men's and women's bathrooms to promote cleanliness and sanitary health. In fact, many public bathrooms are equipped with free hand soap, hand towels and sometimes even paper toilet seat covers. What else do we deem as more essential for basic health care that trumps tampons and pads?
4. Majority Of NYC Students Qualify For Free Or Reduced Lunches
In New York City, more than 76 percent of studentsqualify for free or reduced lunches, indicating that many families may not be able to shell out the extra dollars for pads and tampons for their daughters. The National School Lunch Program operates to assist those families in providing healthy and low-cost or free lunches for more than 31 million children in America. Why don't we see young women's health care as an equally necessary expense?
We as a society in America have deemed certain basic human rights be free or covered by federal assistance in order to maintain a quality of life that provides dignity for Americans. This includes public water fountains in parks, schools and libraries. Taking a note from England, New York City tried to combat cholera and other waterborne diseases in the 1850s by bringing in public water fountains, the first of which was installed in City Hall Park in 1859. We often take these fountains for granted, but they offer citizens the basic necessity of staying hydrated while in the public sphere.
Established in 1776, the U.S. Postal Service appointed Benjamin Franklin as its first Postmaster General. Today, the U.S. has over 40,000 post offices where anyone can go and according to the USPS, have "the right to equal access to secure, efficient, and affordable mail service." Today, the USPS is the largest civilian employer and exists as a not-for-profit service that is covered through the minimal cost to citizens of purchasing a stamp.
In the late 1700s and early 1800s, literacy rates were on the rise in America and a trend of libraries housing rare books began to spring up. Notably, Benjamin Franklin opened one of the first in Philadelphia, known as the Library Company. A particularly important moment for women as they had been regularly barred from learning institutions throughout history, membership for libraries was brought to the colonies in July 1731 and allowed members to access books written in English (not Latin) for free. Lending libraries are tax-funded and board-governed, ensuring that card holders do not have to pay subscription fees and thus making education and literacy accessible for all.
In America, every child has free access to K-12 education. Dating back to the 1600s, certain states tried to provide partially funded grammar schools, typically only for boys, but it wasn't until the 19th century that schools began to separate their students by age, and compulsory attendance laws were passed by 1918. Today, American public schools continue to face financial hardship as less dollars go towards education, but free access to public schools has greatly benefited American children and adults.
At the suggestion of Benjamin Franklin, 30 men formed the Union Fire Company in December of 1736 to help fight fires in Philadelphia. Today, firefighters are trained and licensed emergency medics and sometimes paramedics as well, standing by 24 hours a day to respond to emergencies and fire situations. While there are some rural area exceptions, generally firefighters, teachers and police are paid by the government and American taxpayers.
With the passing of this legislature in New York City, women and girls in schools, prisons and homeless shelters will receive the necessary, hygienic human right to comfort and cleanliness in her everyday life. As the tampon joins the list of things we provide our citizenry for a better quality of life, women's health and rights has made one small, but mighty step today toward equality.