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These teen sisters are fighting for menstrual equality

Because tampons shouldn't be stigmatized.

Spending money on pads and tampons has long been considered part of the "pink tax"that women and girls simply must pay.

But a major step in what advocates are calling "menstrual equality" occured last week when the New York City Council unanimously voted to approve legislation to provide free access topads and tamponsin public schools, prisons and homeless shelters.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, sisters Emma and Quinn Joy were already working toward the same goal. After volunteering at a food pantry and realizing the dire need for tampons and pads, they launched Girls Helping Girls, Period. in December 2014, which collects unopened boxes of feminine hygiene products and distributes them through food pantries, schools and outreach programs.

Girls Helping Girls, Period. co-founder Quinn Joy, 13, took time out of her last day of 7th grade to talk about why the recent legislation is so important — and why there’s still so much work to do.

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It's pretty amazing that in junior high, you were working toward the same goal as the New York City Council. What did you think when you heard the bill passed?
Not only was the bill passed, but all 49 members of the legislature voted for it, and that sends a really important message. It’s important when you’re in school you’re not being distracted by a bodily function. It’s really important that when you go to school, you’re going to learn. It’s normal. Your period is normal. I was so excited when I heard about New York City, because they have the biggest school system in the country, and that it was the first [in the nation]. And I’m really proud that I was very close.

When I was in school, periods were stigmatized — lots of people were embarrassed to talk about them, or even go to the nurse if they needed a tampon or pad. Is that still the case?
It’s still the case, but it’s more talked about. All my friends are super duper supportive of me and Girls Helping Girls, Period. They know exactly what I’m doing, and they’re OK to talk about it. But it became a little bit weird last year, because it was early to get [your period] and some girls got it earlier and others didn’t. It’s a totally acceptable topic, and the boys honestly aren’t that afraid.

How did you end up starting this program, of all the service projects you could do?
I think the most obvious reason it appealed to me is because I’m a girl, and I’m all about girl power. I didn’t know a lot about it, and it interested me, and chances are if you don’t know about it, a lot of other people don’t. It’s not something we learn about in school. We learn about world hunger in school. We don’t learn that girls and women are missing school because of their periods. Girls and women can’t afford things that basically are girl toilet paper.

You can’t have dignity if all you’re worried about is getting a tampon or a pad. You need to be able to feel comfortable, and know that you’re protected.

Do you think you’ll keep doing this as you get older?
I really want to continue this because I feel like the fight is not over. It does not mean that this issue is solved. There’smillions of girls everywherethat have the exact same issue.

 
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