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Local organization aims to end menstruation inequalities in East Texas

Period ETX Founder says, "East Texas in general is just in a lower poverty range. I saw period poverty a lot growing up and I didn't know."

TEXAS, USA — Like other health and economic inequalities, COVID-19 has worsened period poverty nationwide. Locally and statewide, Texans are working to break the stigma surrounding the menstruation conversation and fighting to make feminine hygiene products affordable for all.

Texas Menstrual Equity Coalition is a coalition of menstrual health organizations and advocates in Texas that are passionate about menstrual equity. 

"Nobody should be forced into positions where you're debating between two necessities," Zoe Kaas, co-founder said.

According to Alliance for Period Supplies, in Texas, 1 in 6 women and girls ages 12 to 44 live below the poverty line. 

Period poverty is the inability to afford feminine hygiene products. For example, Kaas said the minimum wage in the state is $7.25 an hour, but the average cost for one box of tampons is $7-- after tax it's almost $7.60. 

Now due to inflation, the price per box increased. 

"Essentially, you're asking wage workers to work more than an hour to just be able to afford something medically necessary," Andrea Elizondo, Texas Menstrual Equity Coalition co-founder said.

The coalition believes creating systemic change begins at the legislative level. Kaas said the organization was advocating for the passage of HB 321, which would have gotten rid of the tampon tax and made period products more accessible to people who are economically disadvantaged.

The bill didn't pass. 

"Viagra is free in some states and are tax free in some states," Kaas said.   "So why why do period products have a tax?"

The coalition doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon, and neither does Period ETX, the only menstruation advocacy organization in East Texas. 

"I noticed period poverty a lot growing up and I didn't know," Tiffany Scheppler, Period ETX founder said.

The organization is committed to providing free hygiene products to East Texans through fundraising drives.

"I known people who've been to the shelters here and they didn't have the [feminine hygiene products]. I think that's the bare necessity," volunteer, Natalie Flores said.

Their most recent drive, received more than 1,000 feminine hygiene products. The donations will be send to the East Texas Crisis Center and the women's shelter.

Period ETX also aims to break the stigma surrounding the menstruation conversation.

"Growing up, my sister would have periods and my parents would hide it from me," Aeson Badillo, Marketing and Outreach Coordinator said. "I never knew anything about periods, I still don't and that's why I joined."

"Although he doesn't have a period, he likes to help people that do," Badillo said.

Texas Menstrual Equity Coalition said the cultural shame attached to menstruation and the costly resources stops women from going to school or work every day.

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