Ending period poverty.

ezra striley-weinman

The overlooked social problem of period poverty, the lack of access to period products, in Utah was addressed at the event with the Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service in conjunction with The Utah Period Project on Feb. 9.

The event hall where the period project took place. (Camryn Johnson/ The Signpost)
The event hall where the period project took place. (Camryn Johnson/ The Signpost) Photo credit: Camryn Johnson

Attending the event were board members Mary Catherine Perry, director of policy and government affairs; Suzy Matheson, director of strategy and development; Brooke Gledhill Wood, director of programs and legal; and Emily McCormick, president and founder of the policy project.

Donations were raised to fund the installation of period product dispensers in all grade schools in Utah.

According to the Utah State Legislature website, the bill that the foundation is currently trying to pass through the legislature is called H.B. 162, Period Products In Schools. This bill is motivated to end period poverty in Utah and allow young women access to period products in schools for free.

According to McCormick, the Utah Period Project falls under the umbrella of the Policy Project that started in 2018. The Policy Project was founded to obliterate the tax on menstrual products in Utah. The Tampon Tax bill was passed, then overturned.

McCormick decided to take an approach to the issue that would directly assist all women in Utah. In 2021, the Utah Period Project was born.

On Feb. 9 McCormick’s explained in her speech the impact of period poverty on women in Utah. McCormick said 46% of women living in poverty have to choose between purchasing a meal or period products, seven in 10 girls have missed or know someone who missed class because of lack of access to period products and 1 in 4 teens cannot afford period products at all.

“The issue of menstruation is not left or right; it’s a human issue,” McCormick said.

Emily Bell mcCormick, the founder of The Period Project explaning why she started it. (Camryn Johnson/ The Signpost)
Emily Bell McCormick, the founder of The Period Project, explains the project's origins. (Camryn Johnson/ The Signpost) Photo credit: Camryn Johnson

This is a non-partisan movement. McCormick explains how many of the men in the legislature, left and right, weren’t aware of how periods could affect women’s lives.

During the event, Gail Miller, chairwoman of the Larry H. Miller Group, summarized how the legislature was responding well to the bill. The reasoning for that was because there is a need, and when Utah residents see that something needs to be changed for the greater good of half the population, they take action to do so.

“My engagement in this effort is to help promote a combination of public-private partnerships. We can join together to make a difference,” Miller said.

The Gail Miller Family Foundation has donated $1 million to the project. That money, along with the matched donation of the Andrews Family Foundation, comes to a sum of $2 million. These donations pay for the installation of the dispensers in schools across Utah and will aid in the final goal of the foundation: ending period poverty.

Supporters of the period project take their seats and get ready for the event. (Camryn Johnson/ The Signpost)
Supporters of the period project take their seats and get ready for the event. (Camryn Johnson/ The Signpost) Photo credit: Camryn Johnson

“We, as women, especially those who are in positions to have a connection with the government, need to be willing to say, ‘Look, I’m willing to step up if you aren’t, and I’m willing to do that — not just with my physical efforts and my words, but with my money,” Miller said.

The board members have met with the representation of six of the eight degree-granting colleges in Utah, including Weber State. McCormick explains how she met with Brad Mortensen, WSU president, but he hasn’t committed to putting period products in every bathroom across campus.

“Students can become involved by expressing the desire to have period products and dispensers put in our bathrooms across campus,” McCormick said.