When Joanie Balderstone and Rebecca McIntire dropped-off interview clothing to women in a Camden, NJ homeless shelter, they asked what else was needed. Overwhelmingly, the women answered, “Pads and tampons.” These items are usually in short supply at homeless shelters, are often an afterthought for donors. Balderstone and McIntire, founders of Distributing Dignity, began work in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and have since enhanced the dignity of countless women in need.
Because of the advocacy initiated by Balderstone, McIntire, and countless other women, Michigan is now considering legislation to provide free feminine hygiene products at public buildings, which could help alleviate some stress on low income women and girls. The state is also one of a handful considering eliminating the so called “tampon tax,” which considers feminine hygiene products taxable luxury items. Over a lifetime, these taxes have inflated the cost of having a period to as much as $18,000--an especially difficult burden on low income women.
Michigan Senator Rebekah Warren of Ann Arbor, a sponsor of this legislation, called the tampon tax “outdated and discriminatory,” in a recent statement, arguing that women shouldn’t have to “pay a 6 percent penalty when they buy medically necessary items.” While repealing the period tax is welcome progress, more comprehensive solutions are needed for those who fall through the cracks.
Be A Rose accepts in-kind and monetary donations to supply at risk women for all their monthly needs. Overall, we aim to disrupt the cycle of poverty and shame many women, young and old, experience due to a lack of reproductive health education and access to feminine hygiene supplies. Our work for women’s education and empowerment, coupled with policy changes, gives us hope for a strong future for women in West Michigan.
By Kai Koopman