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Schools struggle to distribute free menstrual products under new law

Savannah Harriman-Pote

A new law affecting young students across Hawaiʻi is showing mixed results so far. The state Legislature passed a law that requires Hawaiʻi public and charter schools to provide free menstruation products for students beginning over the summer — but not every school is seeing change.

Supporters say that’s because of confusion and a lack of awareness.

The state Department of Education received $2 million in August to purchase pads and tampons, but there was a delay in the funds trickling down to the schools.

Schools that participated in a pilot program with the nonprofit organization Maʻi Movement Hawaiʻi were able to smoothly transition to regularly distributing menstrual products, but most schools are either not aware of the new law or donʻt know how to make the products easily accessible.

"This is something that we did expect, right, that there may be pushback from administrators that still feel like they should not be distributed by the school," said Nikki-Ann Yee, the founder of Maʻi Movement Hawaiʻi.

She pioneered the advancement of free period products in schools.

"They're hesitant about distributing period products, but that also reinforces the fact why we needed the legislation because it should not be up to, you know, like my opinion doesn't matter. Their opinion doesn't matter. This is now state law because it concerns the safety and the health of our keiki," Yee told HPR.

Maʻi Movement Hawaiʻi will be partnering with the DOE to give a webinar on how to establish a free menstrual product system in schools at the end of the month.

Yee estimates schools with no free menstrual products will see changes beginning next month.

Zoe Dym was a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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