On a mission to end ‘period poverty.’
About the episode
“You know, being forced to have to make do with a sock or paper towel roll or rags, just to get through your day, just to get be able to go to work, to be able to go to school and sit in a classroom and learn: It really is a dignity issue, and it affects so many within our community that it’s just unthinkable.”
–Kenzie Blackwell, Free .
When Kenzie Blackwell heard some public school students were using socks, dish towels and cardboard to serve as pads during their period, she knew the work she had to do. The Hingham woman launched Free . (period), a non-profit that provides free tampons in pads in public schools and to local service providers like Father Bill’s and Interfaith Social Services.
Kenzie and Ann Linehan, a Brockton Public School nurse and consultant for the state Department of Public Health sit down with Ally to share their story and their mission, which is not yet done.
Blackwell has been a driving force behind a house bill making it’s way through the state legislature that would make period products free in all public schools, prisons and homeless shelter. Right now, there is no federal or state public assistance program that allows for recipients to use their aid for tampons or pads, like they would food or baby formula.
“No, there’s not a single program program in existence that helps those struggling with hygiene insecurity,” says Blackwell. “You know, in our state, one in nine menstruators live below the federal poverty line. And 172,000 are 100% below the federal poverty line. So if you are that, financially insecure, buying a pad or a tampon, you know, for the average consumer, you’re saying, oh, so what is $3 or $4 a month, $5 or $6 a month, $7 or $8 a month, depending on your product of choice. Though $3 or $4 are a big deal. If you’re 100% below the federal poverty line, that’s the difference between putting food on the table and taking care of your biology.”