Fort Worth will vote Tuesday on whether to provide free period products in every public building, including City Hall, libraries and community centers. It’s a first step to ensure that all women have access to period products, said District 9 council member Elizabeth Beck, who is sponsoring the council proposal.
“We don’t want anyone to not have access to education, improvement or opportunity, because they’re stuck at home for lack of access to period products,” Beck said.
The city would provide both pads and tampons at an estimated cost to the city of $30,000 per year. Fort Worth’s financing department is still working to determine the total final cost. Residents can expect to find products in city buildings soon, Beck said.
A recent nationwide shortage of tampons and a recent emphasis on period poverty have put a spotlight on ways elected officials can provide free or low-cost period products.
Providing free period products is a great idea, said Misty Wilder, director of Healthy Start at the UNT Health Science Center. The program has the potential to provide needed products to underserved communities, but it also helps reduce the stigma associated with menstruation.
“I think that for a younger population, it fuels their self-esteem,” Wilder said. “It’s not shameful that they don’t have access to these items.”
Beck was inspired to provide the free products by two high school students who advocated for free pads on Fort Worth ISD campuses. It’s a small way, on the municipal level, that Fort Worth can help drive a conversation about reduced access to period products, Beck said.
“How do you really impact women’s equality on a city level? I can’t repeal the tampon tax,” Beck said.
Part of getting the council proposal on the city’s agenda involved explaining to colleagues that menstrual products are a true hygienic necessity like toilet paper and soap.
“We’ve all been in a situation where we’ve had to source some sort of menstrual product. This proposal just makes life a little better, and it recognizes that this is normal,” Beck said.
If the city truly wants to meaningfully expand access to period products, they should ensure that the products are in accessible areas and easily obtained by members of the public, without requiring them to answer probing questions, Wilder said.
“I hope they look at what is truly accessible, particularly (to) communities of color,” Wilder said. “What works in one community may not work in another. I hope that they will look at partnerships for where they would put the product so that it can truly be accessible.”
For now, the city is focused on providing period products for residents using city services.
“To me, it seems so basic. Right? It’s just like toilet paper.” Beck said. “I don’t think that that concept, of it being very basic, is really accepted in our society. It’s like, why haven’t we always been doing this?”
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.