The Women and Children Committee of the New Jersey State Assembly voted unanimously today to advance Bill A1349, which mandates period products in all NJ schools and requires the State to pay the costs. This bill corrects an inequity in education and opportunity by making menstrual products as accessible as toilet paper and paper towels in school bathrooms.
The National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County Section (NCJW/Essex) proudly testified at the hearing today in favor of the bill, alongside many of our partners, including The Flow Initiative, 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 students provided perhaps the most moving testimony of the day. They have worked with the coalition to implement a menstrual product dispenser pilot program in their school.
“I urge you to pass this bill because as a person who menstruates, having a period is very stressful,” said Heissel Contreras, a North Star junior. “I have had to run around the school hallways trying to ask someone for a pad. This not only was highly embarrassing, but it also wastes a lot of the time I could have taken in class.”
NCJW/Essex helped script the preliminary language for this bill in 2016, and together with partners at the Thrive NJ Menstrual Equity Coalition, have worked tirelessly for more than six years to move this legislation on what is clearly a nonpartisan issue. The 10 co-sponsors of A1349 include women and men, Democrats and Republicans. And, since we began our work in New Jersey, 21 other states and Washington DC have passed similar menstrual equity bills.
Committee Chair Gabriela Mosquera, the bill’s initial primary sponsor, also emphasized the need to reshape thinking on menstrual equity. “If we can afford toilet paper in our bathrooms, we can definitely afford menstrual products,” she said during the hearing. “Our students are faced with enough issues today. They should not be forced to take extreme measures… We should just give them the necessities they deserve.”
NCJW/Essex’s Period.Project, launched in 2018, works to help end period poverty through distribution, education and advocacy and has distributed more than 900,000 menstrual products to date. Our ultimate goal is to have period products available wherever menstruators need them, and we look forward to that day when this initiative is no longer needed.
NCJW/Essex and its partners will continue to watch and support Bill A1349 as it moves through the committee process and then on to the full Assembly for a final vote with the hope and commitment that it will become law.