WEST COVINA, Calif. — West Covina High school senior Alyssa Aranda says often she has what she needs for the classroom, but not the bathroom.
“I have two jobs to be able to help me financially because I have to pay for my own car but I also have to pay for my own period products and it all racks up,” Aranda said. “It’s just kind of really stressful l when I have to go to the bathroom and I might not have it.”
She’s had to miss class and leave school because she didn’t have what she needed.
“I bled through my pants because the school didn’t have any. I had to resort to toilet paper because I couldn’t buy any period products that week and I thought I could make it home but I bled through my pants and I had to go home because of it,” Aranda said. “It was really embarrassing because I didn’t have a jacket at the time so I just sat in the office.”
Students may be back in the classroom but inaccessibility to menstrual products is keeping some girls at home.
One in 4 menstruators in the U.S. has missed class because they don’t have products.
Aranda has talked to other students on campus who have the same problem. Period West Covina High is a student group that works to end period poverty on campus. Group president Karyme Padilla says more students need access to menstrual products.
“Really it’s a human need and it needs to be treated the same way as you treat toilet paper, soap, paper towels and the restroom,” Padilla said.
The need for menstrual products has been a topic in other countries around the world. The Oscar-winning documentary “Period. End of Sentence.” addressed the need for products in rural India.
But the documentary’s producer Melissa Berton says it’s not just happening overseas. The morning after she won the Oscar, she was flooded with emails from women who had the same experiences as the women in the movie.
“Girls from right here in Southern California, who had to stuff their underwear with socks because they couldn’t afford period supplies,” Berton recalled. “Same stories from students in other parts of the United States. Students all over the world asking what they could do to have a pad machine in their region and their community.”
To help, Berton runs The Pad Project which donates period products to students in need. Berton is an English teacher at Oakwood School in North Hollywood and the students help donate and package free supplies to students around the U.S. including school districts in Downey, Montebello and Santa Ana.
“Pads, tampons, period products for any student who needs it,” Berton said.
The students in West Covina want the same for their school. They’ve rallied together to ask the school district and principal to provide free products at school. As a result, product dispensers are now in all of the girls’ restrooms at no cost to students.
“I’m glad that they are finally trying to do something about it but I feel like if they put enough money as they would in the football team it would help with the period issue here,” Aranda said.
California Assembly Bill 10 requires all schools that meet a 40% student poverty threshold to provide free menstrual products in 50% of the school’s bathrooms.
The Pad Project is raising money for its Pad for Schools campaign. To donate, visit ThePadProject.org.