Julia: This Gold Award Girl Scout Works with Her State Representatives to Fight Menstrual Stigma
At my high school, period products were hidden away in the nurse’s office—so if you needed them you had to talk to your teacher. Your period was basically made into a public event and treated like a sickness rather than handled in the privacy of a bathroom.
As the head of my school’s Intersectional Feminist Club, I figured I could just ask to have period products in the bathrooms—that it would be something easy to accomplish. But when I did that, I started getting a lot of hostile calls and emails and pushback from the school’s administration. It made me realize that if this issue was so difficult to tackle in my own community here in Colorado, it must be difficult for people in other places as well. In fact, I learned that in the U.S. one in five girls has missed at least a day of school because of not having access to period products. And of course there’s the shame and embarrassment that is culturally associated with having a period, even though it’s just a normal bodily function.
I wanted to address this issue on a larger scale, which is how I got the idea for my Girl Scout Gold Award. I reached out to my state representative, who agreed to sponsor a bill that would fund menstrual products in Colorado schools if I was involved in the whole process. So I lobbied representatives and senators, rallied my community’s support, and worked really hard on a piece of legislation that would help bring period equity to girls all over my state.
We got pretty far with the bill, but when COVID-19 happened the legislative budget got slashed and they had to terminate all non-essential programs. My bill was killed, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t make a difference. By starting the conversation about menstrual inequity in schools, we inspired several different school districts, including the two largest in my state, to supply menstrual products in bathrooms. And the fight for better access definitely lives on.
Working with my state rep toward earning my Gold Award opened up a world I never expected to get involved in. Politics and influencing legislation weren’t things I wanted to pursue. But since working at the Capitol, I’ve decided to study politics and policy in college. And because most of the policymakers and leaders of the world aren’t from marginalized groups—groups that include women (especially low-income women, women of color, and women with disabilities) and LGBTQ+ people—it’s important that we get involved and elevate the voices of all marginalized people so that they can be a part of creating a world that’s built for them, and for everyone.
The thing about Girl Scouts is that it shows girls they can have a much bigger influence on the world than I think the world even wants them to believe. It taught me about solidarity and how to demand to be heard. Becoming a National Gold Award Girl Scout is an amazing recognition and of course the $20,000 in scholarships is so helpful, but what I value most is that now I know I’m capable of achieving whatever I want. I can truly take on the world.