Period products will be free for Hawaiʻi students starting fall semester
About a dozen students gathered at Washington Place in Honolulu on Monday to celebrate a momentous occasion for menstrual equality.
This summer, all K-12 public and charter schools in Hawaiʻi will prepare to give free period products to all menstruating students.
SB 2821, introduced by state Sen. Michelle Kidani, allocates $2 million in the upcoming fiscal year for the program.
Maʻi Movement Hawaiʻi, an organization dedicated to ending period poverty, brought the idea for the bill to the Legislature. The organization is run by three Native Hawaiian sisters — Brandy-Lee Yee, Nikki-Ann Yee and Jamie-Lee Kapana.
They partnered with six schools throughout the islands to distribute pads and tampons. The partner schools were Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School, DreamHouse ʻEwa Beach, W.R. Farrington High School, Kalama Intermediate School, Kaʻu High & Pahala Elementary, and Keʻelikolani Middle School.
Then they surveyed the students and found that the free products had positive impacts on education — including fewer missed classes and absences.
"For the very last hearing in the finance committee, I was able to fly in, and that was one of the first committee hearings as well that were done in person, and we had all the amazing ʻIlima students there — our advocates," Nikki-Ann Yee said. "And to just feel the mana in that room, I knew that the bill was gonna happen and it was gonna become law."
Students advocated for the bill during the legislative session, and some spoke at Monday’s bill signing ceremony. They coined the term "non-bleeding allies," referring to people who do not menstruate but support the movement.
Alana Taylor from ʻIlima Intermediate created a mascot in her school’s activism club, saying, "I co-designed Paddy the Pad. Paddy is now our menstrual mascot that helped us get lots of attention on social media."
Taylor says Paddy received mixed reviews. While some people were excited to see youth activism, others thought it was weird.
"Throughout all this, I learned that usually kids get a bad rep. This bill just goes to show that kids really do care, and how much we want to make a change," Taylor said.
The Maʻi Movement distributed pads and tampons by placing them in bathrooms or the back of a classroom, or by making period kits.
Schools will now administer the program and decide how to distribute period products during the summer.