Proclamation draws awareness to ‘period poverty’ in Hawaii

  • In this screenshot from a virtual ceremony, Hawaii’s first lady Dawn Amano-Ige smiles after speaking about a new proclamation issued by Gov. David Ige meant to educate the public about ‘period poverty.’

Gov. David Ige issued a proclamation Monday to bring awareness to “period poverty” in Hawaii.

The Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, along with first lady Dawn Amano-Ige and Nikki-Ann Yee, a co-founder of the Ma‘i Movement, came together Wednesday in a virtual ceremony to celebrate the statewide proclamation.

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Period poverty is the lack of access or inability to afford sanitary products used for menstruation.

This public health issue can adversely affect the health and well-being of people who menstruate, including students, low-income and homeless women and girls, transgender and nonbinary individuals, and incarcerated people.

“On behalf of the state of Hawaii and Gov. Ige, I join the national and global recognition of the importance of ensuring health and hygiene for women and girls and encourage community groups in collecting and distributing period products to those in need,” said Amano-Ige during the ceremony.

According to the 2020 ALICE report by Aloha United Way, 60% of Hawaii’s local families struggle to meet basic needs, including period products, as a result of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, three sisters founded Ma‘i Movement, a nonprofit with a mission to provide and distribute free menstrual products to people in need and advocate for systemic change to end period poverty.

“As the pandemic waged on and it took its economic toll on so many local families, it was impossible to ignore a deeper feeling that we needed to do more for our people,” Yee said. “I never thought period poverty would touch our shores. But the more I looked into the issue in our state and found such a lack of resources, the more there was a strong call to action.”

According to the proclamation, national surveys report that 1 in 5 people who menstruate miss work or school due to because of period poverty, and it can lead to infections or other health complications.

Seven months after founding Ma‘i Movement, the organization has sent 80,000 menstruation products throughout the state, with distributions on seven of Hawaii’s eight islands.

To kick off Period Poverty Awareness Week, May 24-30, Ma‘i Movement is running a statewide campaign to build community support for its period supplies program.

Information about donations and distributions can be found on its website at https://maimovement.org/malamayourmai/.

“One day, I hope we can all look back on this and see this was just the beginning in creating a more equitable and inclusive society,” Yee said. “Period Poverty Awareness Week is more than just providing and supporting those who menstruate, but about normalizing a bodily function and guaranteeing that periods, which half the population experiences, (do) not hold anybody back from living a normal life.”

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Yee and other advocates hope this proclamation, along with the partnerships garnered between private and public entities, help Hawaii become the first state to make period products free for everyone.

Email Kelsey Walling at kwalling@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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