Hawai‘i Students Fought for Free Menstrual Products in Schools and Won
Hawai‘i Students Fought For Free Menstrual Products In Schools & Won
When a transgender student bled through their pants and then was bullied by peers, teacher Sarah "Mili" Milianta-Laffin (Houston ’06) said students in the school’s activism club became determined to address period poverty in their school.
Three years after starting the process to end period poverty for students in Hawai'i, the students at ’Ilima Intermediate School, a middle school in Ewa Beach, Hawai'i, led the passage of legislation that makes period products free in all public and charter schools in the state.
The Capitol building is for everyone. You are all citizens of the State of Hawaii, so you are allowed to be in this space.
Hawaii State Representative Jeanne Kapela: This is what it’s all about to see young people in the building advocating for something that you know is important.
Mili: Today is a pretty historic day. These kids are participating in a civic process that is changing something for them at their school. For three years, my students have been working on a legislative solution to period poverty in public schools.
Students: This bill will make it so that kids can just get their period products at school for free.
Period poverty is a world crisis.
The bill started first in 2019, but the bill died when COVID started. Then we wrote another one and now we're here. Yeah. Been rehearsing on the bus; and I think I'm prepared for it. But I have not talked in front of a bunch of legislators yet.
I'm a little nervous. Nervous. Very nervous. Nervous, Feel very nervous. But I, I 100% positive that they're going to pass it.
Mili: It is 3:00, which means this hearing is gonna start any minute. You are here representing one of the 168,000 public school students that aren't here. We are taking space, so we can make space for everyone. You have a right to be in this building. You are changing history, and I’m so proud of you. And I’m gonna calm down because you know how I get. Come here, come here, come here.
You got this. You got this. You’re doing great. You got this.
Today, it is kind of anxiety-inducing to be up here, so you might see students give sparkles. How do we do that? That's just a little bit of psychic encouragement while they're working on this bill.
Student testimonies: I’m an 8th-grader from ‘Ilima Intermediate. When I'm bleeding through my pants, do you think that I'm paying attention during class? 12-year-old girls like me are missing the whole weeks of school because of their period.
Mili: This is the seat of democracy. These kids are participating in a civic process that is changing something for them at their school. They are making history today. And I don't think this moment gets better as a teacher. I don't.
Student testimonies: We need your help, and we need it now, for equity and dignity for menstruating students, no matter their gender or economic status.
State legislator: We're going to escort you out, but wait for a little while because we're going to vote on this bill.
State representatives: Aye, aye, aye, aye, aye.
Mili: People have thanked me to say like, "Oh Mili, you know, you gave them a voice." And that upsets me because these kids have a voice. Our job as public school teachers is to amplify the voice they have and make sure that they are in all spaces they deserve to be in.