See more of the story

University of Minnesota students and local activists are pressing the state’s third-largest school system to stock its high school restrooms with free menstrual hygiene products.

Through an online petition, Jennifer Day and Gaby Haire are calling on Minneapolis Public Schools officials to make tampons and pads accessible, especially to transgender, low-income and homeless students. Their campaign is part of a national movement called “menstrual equity” that is pushing school leaders and elected officials to provide free and accessible menstruation products.

To date, they have gained support from more than 140 people.

“A really big barrier is that a lot of students don’t feel comfortable like going to a nurse or being seen in public grabbing a menstrual product,” Day said. “We are going to start with what are labeled as girls’ bathrooms, and if the district has them, definitely the gender-neutral bathrooms, but eventually we would like to see menstrual products in every single bathroom.”

Day and Haire are leaders of Period.MN , a youth-run nonprofit that provides and celebrates menstrual hygiene through service, education, and advocacy. The organization is a local branch of Period, which was started in 2014 by Harvard student Nadya Okamoto when she was 16 and wrestling with homelessness. Okamoto’s book “Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement,” sheds light on her experiences and ways to improve period inequities. Her work has now spurred a global movement focused on distributing hygiene products, creating awareness of the menstrual movement and advocating for policy changes.

Organizers cite studies showing students who cannot afford to buy menstrual products “are denied equal learning opportunities, as they frequently skip school during menstruation.”

The goal, they say, is to start a pilot program in Minneapolis that would help combat the stigma and shame surrounding menstruation.

Public schools officials said the conversation is still in its early stages. Chapter leaders are trying to connect with a high school group to figure out which school would most need the free hygiene products, officials said.

Faiza Mahamud • 612-673-4203