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Mayor de Blasio Signs Legislation Increasing Access to Feminine Hygiene Products for Students, Shelter Residents and Inmates

July 13, 2016

NEW YORK–– Mayor Bill de Blasio today signed a package of legislation increasing access to feminine hygiene products for New York City’s shelter residents, students and inmates. With Intros 1122-A, 1123-A and 1128-A, New York City guarantees access to these essential products for all female Department of Correction inmates; persons residing in a City shelter and youth under the care of certain Children’s Services facilities – including transgender, intersex and gender non-conforming New Yorkers; and public school students. The Mayor signed the legislation at the High School for Violin and Dance in the Bronx, further solidifying NYC as a national leader in advocating for women and girls, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression.

“There should be no stigma around something as fundamental as menstruation. These laws recognize that feminine hygiene products are a necessity – not a luxury,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Students should be able to concentrate on their studies, New Yorkers in shelter should be able to focus on rebuilding their lives, and women in our Correction Department should be able to work toward rehabilitation and release without the indignity of inadequate access to tampons and pads. As a father, husband and feminist, I am proud to sign these bills into law and thank sponsors Speaker Mark-Viverito and Council Members Cumbo, Ferreras-Copeland and Levin on their leadership.”

“For too long, we’ve kept silent about menstrual periods, and that silence has hurt our young people. No young person should miss class or be embarrassed at school because she needs a tampon or pad. ‎New York City girls and women are lucky to have strong advocates like Council Member Ferreras-Copeland, Council Speaker Mark-Viverito and the rest of the Council. Young women hear far too many negative messages about their bodies. I'm so proud our city has chosen to send such a decisively positive one," said First Lady Chirlane McCray.

“This is a great day for women in New York City. These new laws ensure that feminine hygiene products will be made available by the City to women who need them,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “By doing so, we are also taking the important step of recognizing these products a necessity. These hygiene products should never be considered a luxury for women, but rather an essential part of women’s health. I’d like to thank the de Blasio Administration for their partnership on this policy, and all my Council colleagues, including Council Members Rodriguez, Dromm, and Levin who sponsored bills in this legislative package, and especially Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who has been at the forefront of this issue, as the leading voice on this women’s health initiative.”

Azadeh Khalili, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Commission on Gender Equity, said, “No one should have to worry about whether they have access to feminine hygiene products when they’re already worrying about an upcoming math final or finding a permanent and safe home for their family. Mayor de Blasio and First Lady McCray formed the Commission on Gender Equity to ensure City government creates policies that are supportive of women and girls, regardless of race, class, sexual orientation, ability to speak English, or gender expression. Today’s laws are a great sign of more to come in increasing opportunity, fairness, dignity and respect for young girls and women.”

“Students must feel comfortable during their classes so they can to focus on learning, and having free, easy access to feminine care products is essential,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “I’m proud that these schools are providing additional resources to support the needs of girls in our schools.”

"We are proud to be part of this Administration's commitment to advancing gender equity, including increasing access to basic feminine hygiene products for New Yorkers,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “This legislation expands on and enshrines into law Department of Social Services' existing policies to respect the dignity of all women, girls, transgender men, intersex and gender non-conforming New Yorkers living in shelter, and provide the resources and support they need."

“I am proud that NYC is investing in the well-being of our young women and increasing access to feminine hygiene products,” said Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner Gladys Carrión. “I am grateful that no young woman will go without the supplies she needs. I thank the City Council and the Mayor for their forward thinking on many projects and initiatives to secure the rights of women and girls in our city.”

"Every young person should have their essential needs met in order to do well in school, and that includes having unfettered access to menstrual hygiene products. Today, I am proud to lead the nation towards menstrual equity by guaranteeing access to pads and tampons to hundreds of thousands of women and girls. I thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Mayor Bill de Blasio for their vision and demonstrated support which is an example for other cities to follow," said Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.

Council Member Stephen Levin said, “This is just one manifestation of what feminism in the 21st century looks like: unashamed and unapologetic. This bill recognizes that feminine hygiene products are a necessity, and will allow New Yorkers to focus on working towards achieving their goals.”

Council Member Vanessa Gibson said, “Reliable access to feminine hygiene products is a necessity and, thanks to the package of bills being signed into law today, will be a basic right for New York women who may have otherwise had difficulty accessing these products. Providing feminine hygiene products in our schools, shelters, and jails is an important step in our work to truly end the stigmatization of women's bodies and I applaud Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland for their leadership, vision, and steadfast support of the women of the City of New York. I remain proud of the de Blasio Administration's ongoing efforts to promote gender equality and thank the Mayor for coming to my district to sign this much needed legislation in to law and I am confident that it will positively impact New York women for many years to come.”

"Nearly 30 percent of teens in New York City live in poverty. The cost of feminine hygiene products can be as high as $100 annually and competes with other basic necessities like toilet paper, food, and lodging, particularly for women and families that make daily financial sacrifices to make ends meet. On behalf of New York City Council’s Women’s Caucus, we want to thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland for bringing these vital bills forward and their leadership on establishing menstrual equity, which exemplifies one of the many reasons why it is important to have women in office. The legislative package will impact the lives of tens of thousands of women and girls in New York City's schools, homeless shelters, and Department of Correction facilities. Feminine hygiene products are not luxuries, they are necessities. We are proud to live in a city that demonstrates that the health and well-being of women matter. Menses is a natural function to be celebrated and not dismissed," said Council Members Laurie A. Cumbo and Helen Rosenthal, Co-Chairs of the Women's Caucus of the New York City Council.

Congresswoman Grace Meng said, “The signing of these bills is a giant leap forward in our fight for menstrual equality. These pieces of legislation will greatly improve access to feminine hygiene products and help remove the stigma associated with menstruation. I applaud Mayor de Blasio for signing these measures into law, and in particular I thank City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito, Councilwoman Ferreras-Copeland – and all the activists – for moving this issue forward. It has been a privilege to work with them. When I testified in favor of these bills before the City Council last month, I said that ‘we have a responsibility to ensure that women and girls have access to safe, quality and affordable feminine hygiene products.’ Thanks to these bills being signed into law, that will now be the case in New York City. As we celebrate this victory, I will redouble my efforts in Congress to make feminine hygiene products more affordable to women. I recently convinced FEMA to add feminine hygiene products to the list of items that homeless assistance providers can purchase with federal grant funds, and my legislation that would allow Americans to buy feminine hygiene products with money from flexible spending accounts continues to pick up steam. The bills signed today by the Mayor serve as an example to cities across the country on how changes can be made at the local level to address the menstruation hygiene management needs of women and girls.”

Assembly Member Michael Blake said, "With the signing of these three bills, Mayor de Blasio is codifying equality and equity for girls and women in schools, shelters and the criminal justice system. No longer will a regularly occurring, natural event create an undue financial burden on low-income women or cause our girls to miss school. I applaud the Mayor and the Council Members for leading through example and showing the world how the City cares for all its residents by providing them with the necessary hygiene products they need to feel clean, healthy and prepared for their day."

The first bill, Intro. 1122-A, requires the Department of Correction to ensure that all female inmates are guaranteed access to feminine hygiene products, codifying an existing practice into law. This bill reaffirms that everyone under the care of the City should have access to the hygiene products they need. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsors, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.

The second bill, Intro. 1123-A, requires the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to make feminine hygiene products available to agencies that operate temporary shelters or have oversight of providers operating temporary shelters. This includes the Department of Homeless Services family shelters and single adult shelters; HIV/AIDS Services Administration shelters; and Human Resources Administration domestic violence shelters. The bill also requires DCAS to make such products available to youth in secure detention facilities, and youth awaiting placement with a licensed foster care agency in congregate care facilities, both of which are operated by the Administration for Children’s Services.

By making feminine hygiene products available in all single-adult shelters – not just women’s shelters – the bill guarantees that transgender, intersex and gender non-conforming New Yorkers will all have access to the products, regardless of their gender identity or expression. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsors, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Member Stephen Levin.

The third bill, Intro. 1128-A, requires the Department of Education to make free feminine hygiene products available to students in the bathrooms of school buildings, making New York City’s the largest program of its kind nationwide. This bill ensures that students have the support they need to focus on learning and feel comfortable in the classroom.

This policy will apply to school buildings in which there are female students in grades 6 to 12, including charter schools in DOE-controlled and operated spaces. To better educate New York City families on this program, schools will host parent workshops and student information sessions about feminine hygiene products during the 2016-2017 school year. In his remarks, the Mayor thanked the bill’s sponsors, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.

Intro. 1128-A comes after a successful pilot program during the 2015-2016 school year. The City placed 380 dispensers across 25 middle and high schools and trained staff members in assisting students and parents in any concerns with the program.

‎Tampons and pads are readily available for all students in DOE facilities who menstruate, including those who are transgender and gender non-conforming. Menstrual hygiene products are also readily available to all inmates in the Department of Correction who menstruate – including those who are transgender and gender non-conforming.

Joan Malin, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City, said, "Access to resources like menstrual products is a simple matter of dignity and respect. Planned Parenthood of New York City applauds Mayor Bill de Blasio, Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for working to ensure that individuals in New York City schools, homeless shelters, and jails can access tampons and pads when they need them. This is a huge victory for menstrual equity, and will help young people develop a positive body image and stay focused on achieving their dreams. We are proud that our Mayor and City Council are dedicated to making our city a place where all New Yorkers can lead healthier and happier lives."

Sonia Ossorio, President of NOW-NYC said, “In 2016 in one of the richest cities in the world, no girl should face shame or miss school because she is menstruating and lacks access to the pads or tampons she needs to pursue her everyday activities. All women and girls – including those in school, incarcerated women, and homeless women – should have access to these essential and medically necessary products. We applaud the leadership of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, City Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland and Mayor Bill de Blasio, for making free access to feminine hygiene products a reality for the women and girls of our city with the most need.”

Sherry Leiwant, co-President of A Better Balance, said, “A Better Balance applauds the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio for recognizing the need to insure that all women and girls have access to essential hygiene products. These bills protect some of the most vulnerable women in our city and demonstrate concern and consideration for the real needs of women and girls.”

Dr. Danielle Moss Lee, President & CEO of YWCA of the City of New York, said, "I am extremely proud to support the de Blasio Administration and First Lady Chirlane McCray in the signing of the bill to expand access to feminine hygiene products. As a community leader who has been at the forefront in fighting for human rights of women and girls here in New York City for over 25 years, this is an amazing accomplishment. The YWCA NYC is honored to be part of this ground breaking effort to provide students and vulnerable populations with free access to feminine hygiene products. Thank you for addressing this challenging, yet critical public health issue. Access to these products will give women and girls of this city a sense of dignity, self-worth, and confidence!”

Eileen Torres, Executive Director of Bronx Works, said, “By providing access to vital necessities such as feminine hygiene products, the City shows a great commitment to holistically address the various needs of the diverse population we strive to serve in a respectful and dignified manner. BronxWorks is especially encouraged by the Mayor’s and City Council’s determination to bring this initiative front and center.”

Taina Bien-Aime, Executive Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and Member of the Mayor’s Commission on Gender Equity, said, “We know how debilitating a day or a week can be in the life of a schoolgirl when she doesn't have access to the necessary feminine hygiene products. It's hard to focus and it's hard to socialize. The Mayor's decision to provide these basic necessities free of charge to women and girls in New York City’s public school, shelters and jails will have a direct positive impact on their lives."

"I applaud the New York City Council for their unanimous vote to give women in public schools, prisons and homeless shelters access to free feminine hygiene products. I am also excited to see the strong support from the de Blasio Administration and First Lady Chirlane McCray for the City Council's efforts to expand access to feminine hygiene products for all New Yorkers. The cost of these products are huge and put an undue burden on women for what is a natural bodily function. Lack of access to necessary products can interfere with something as basic as a young woman's ability to attend school, as well as be a serious source of discomfort, embarrassment and anxiety to women in shelters and in prison. I am proud to be a member of the Commission of Gender Equity for New York City in a city that is taking the lead in bringing sound public policy to normalize feminine hygiene products as standard human needs – just like toilet paper,” said Radhika Balakrishnan, Faculty Director Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

Nancy Kramer, Founder of Free the Tampons, said, “Today New York City leads the way forward with this important social change as the first City to free tampons and pads for the dignity of girls and young women in the schools. I’m incredibly grateful to Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland for having the courage to take up this issue and to Mayor de Blasio for acting in such a timely manner to sign this legislation. Their unanimous vote makes it clear that this is a long overdue and common sense policy, which I hope will be quickly adopted by other cities across America."

Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, VP for Development and the Brennan Center for Justice, said, “New York City has made menstrual equity a reality with the passage of this legislation – and is leading the way for the rest of the nation and the world. By providing menstrual products to the thousands of New Yorkers who need them, the City is not only improving the lives of its residents, but it is advancing a vital message: that the ability to manage menstruation is a necessity, not an entitlement or privilege. And that no-one should have to miss work or school, or risk their health, or compromise their dignity, because they have their period.”

"Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland's commitment to make tampons as easily available as toilet paper is an incredible step in normalizing the conversation about periods. With free access and an open dialogue comes an end to the taboo and a greater sense of agency for people who menstruate in NYC,” said Margo Seibert, co-Founder of Racket.

“Feminine hygiene products are a basic and critical need for homeless women. This new legislation will expand access and availability of feminine hygiene products across all types of New York City shelters, reducing one small stressor in the lives of homeless women,” said Giselle Routhier, Policy Director of Coalition for the Homeless.

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