MADISON, Wis. - Community leaders in the Dane County area are applauding state efforts to increase access to menstrual products, but the proposal still faces an uphill battle at the state Capitol.
The new bill from Democratic Rep. Melissa Sargent requires that pads and tampons be offered for free in all schools and state and local buildings.
The Boys & Girls Club of Dane County was one of several community organizations that helped organize a tampon and school supplies drive in the area this week. Chief Operating Officer Sarah Ghee said it started two years ago after two young girls were caught stealing menstrual products.
"As young girls start to menstruate, their confidence goes down, and there seems to be a direct correlation in not having enough period products," Ghee said.
She cited a national study from Always showing that 1 in 5 American girls misses school due to a lack of pads and tampons.
"When you miss school as a result of this, you miss opportunities and it really decreases your confidence," she said.
Ghee thanked state legislators for working to increase access to menstrual products.
Sargent has proposed the bill a few times before and it did not get scheduled for a hearing.
The state's Department of Public Instruction said the cost of a previous bill was indeterminate because costs may vary from school to school. The department said the individual cost of menstrual productss are about $70 a year for one person's use. Schools, however, would likely buy the products in bulk, which would lower the cost.
District 2 Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner of the Dane County Board of Supervisors, spearheaded a pilot program at the county level that resulted in free tampons and pads being placed in all county-owned buildings. The county converted the coin dispensers for the products so that they dispense them for free.
"You need toilet paper. You need hand sanitzer. You need hand soap. These are just basic things you need when you go to the bathroom. And for people who menstruate, they need menstrual supplies," Wegleitner said.
Laura Hicklin, director of the Dane County Land and Water Resources Department, said the department has plans to install dispensers that offer tampons and pads for free in restrooms at Dane County parks.
A spokesperson for the Madison Metropolitan School District said menstrual products are available in middle and high school bathrooms.
These Dane County buildings currently offer free menstrual products:
- Dane County Regional Airport
- Henry Vilas Zoo
- Dane County Courthouse
- Dane County Public Safety Building
- City County Building
- Dane County Job Center
- South Madison Human Services
- Northport Human Services
- Stoughton Human Services
- Lyman F. Anderson Agriculture & Conservation Center
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