The term “period poverty” might not be commonplace in some communities but limited access to menstrual supplies affects millions of people on a daily basis. Back in August, New Jersey took strides to help combat that issue — with the help of Jersey City-based, grassroots organization The Flow Initiative — passing a statewide mandate that requires public schools to provide free menstrual health products in grades 6-12. Now, another bill has been passed by the state of New Jersey to further help combat period poverty. Bill A3211/S2302 was recently put into place by Governor Murphy, establishing the New Jersey Feminine Hygiene Products for the Homeless Act. This bill makes feminine hygiene products and sanitation products available in shelters for the unhoused. Read on for what we know about Bill A3211/S2302 and what this means for those who are in need.
Bill A3211/S2302: Menstrual Products in Shelters
Following the General Assembly approval in February 2023, the NJ State Senate approved the bill on January 8th, 2024 officially making Bill A3211/S2302 a law. The New Jersey Feminine Hygiene Products for the Homeless Act requires emergency shelters for the unhoused that serve female residents to make feminine hygiene products — including but not limited to sanitary napkins, tampons, and panty liners — to be available free of charge for females residing in the shelter.
The bill also mentions that women and girls who are unhoused “should not be burned with the costs of feminine hygiene products while already experiencing financial and economic hardships.” The act will take effect on the 30th day following the enactment.
In regards to Bill A3211/S2302 passing, Eiko La Boria, founder of The Flow Initiative, said “Today is another momentous victory in the fight for menstrual equity in New Jersey. Bill A3211 is an example of bipartisan leaders coming together to prioritize the health and well-being of menstruating individuals. When people don’t have access to menstrual health products, they, unfortunately, resort to unsafe and unsanitary alternatives which could result in health infections. Now, Bill A3211 can help reduce these issues in our state’s homeless shelters and improve our local communities.”
Partner at The Flow Initiative, Sabrina Browne, also added ““Period poverty impacts everyone who menstruates and it is exacerbated by the fact that menstrual health products are typically not publicly funded in budgets for schools, homeless shelters, and crisis emergency centers The new legislation, Bill A3211, is positioned to help address this issue in our state’s homeless shelters and provide menstrual health products to those in need. By increasing access, we will help reduce the stigma and shame often associated with period poverty and help individuals achieve dignified menstruation.”
Bill A1349: Menstrual Products in Schools
Bill A1349’s passing was formally announced Wednesday, August 23rd, 2023, when Gov. Murphy officially signed it into law. Per a press release from BCW Global, Bill A1349 “mandates public schools to provide free menstrual health products to students in grades 6 through 12 and requires the state to pay costs.” The press release went on to share that the move signals “the state’s commitment to address rising rates of period poverty which is the lack of access to menstrual health products.”
Although period poverty is a relatively new issue in some communities, “lack of access to menstrual health products has been an ongoing issue in New Jersey. The Flow Initiative’s State of The Flow Survey found that 52% of students have had a menstrual accident because they did not have access to menstrual health products.” Additionally, the press release shared that “74% of students said that they would benefit from access to free menstrual health products outside of school.”
Bill A1349 didn’t turn up out of nowhere — instead, it’s the culmination of hard work from The Flow Initiative, a grassroots organization focused on ending period poverty for women and non-binary people who menstruate. Alongside its partners (National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County Section, Hospeco, The Community Food Bank of New Jersey, the League of Women Voters, Girls Helping Girls. Period., and students from North Star Academy in Newark) The Flow Initiative testified at the New Jersey State Assembly’s Women and Children Committee in June 2022. The result? The “Assembly voted unanimously to pass the bill.”
In regards to Bill A1349’s passing, Eiko La Boria, founder of The Flow Initiative, said: “For decades, period poverty has prevented women, girls, and menstruating people from achieving dignified menstruation. They have missed school, work, and professional development opportunities from not having access to menstrual health products. Today, we chart a new course in New Jersey, and I hope others will follow our lead to end period poverty nationwide.”
Partner at The Flow Initiative, Sabrina Browne, also added: “The passing of Bill A1349 is a testament to government leaders and grassroots organizations coming together to accelerate real change in the menstrual health movement.” She also shared in the press release, “Period poverty impacts everyone who menstruates, and it is exacerbated by the fact that menstrual health products are typically not publicly funded in budgets for schools…”
About The Flow Initiative
The stats surrounding period poverty and access to supplies were striking to Jersey City resident Eiko La Boria, prompting her into action and to found The Flow Initiative.
Just in Jersey City, 90% of menstruating bodies have a need for supplies while in school, 76% have had an accident, and 20% have missed school completely. Upon learning this, Eiko made it her mission to get these products in the hands of those in need while also erasing the stigma and shame often associated with periods.
Over the years, she has advocated for menstrual equity in the city and county at large while creating an access plan to start getting period product dispensaries and opening emergency period product distribution centers throughout the city. Her work is necessary for the community, and she hopes to take this mission nationwide. At the very least, Eiko has already proven she brings the issue to statewide attention.
For the past four years, The Hoboken Girl has worked with The Flow Initiative to collect period products for those in need — and have collected over 30,000 products each year. Be sure to follow The Flow Initiative’s socials to stay in-the-know on the latest in menstrual health news and legislature.