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Gina Rodriguez Wants You to Know About "Period Poverty"—and What Can Be Done to Help

gina-rodriguez-wants-to-end-period-poverty.jpg Photo: Daniel Zuchnik / Getty Images

If you've never had to go without pads and tampons, it's easy to take them for granted. When wallowing in the misery your period brings along every month, it might never even cross your mind how much worse it'd be without products that help you manage your hygiene. That's something Gina Rodriguez wants to change. In a recent essay for Teen Vogue, the actress took the time to reflect on how different her life would be today if she hadn't been able to afford menstrual products or had to miss school because of her period. 

Having to miss classes might've led to a snowball effect that could have kept her from going to NYU and later receiving other opportunities that have shaped her life, she pointed out. "What if I'd had to stay home from class for a few days every month when I was in my teens?" she wrote. "What lessons would I have missed, and how many quizzes would have occurred in my absence? I am sure I would've missed out on building deeper relationships with my teachers and peers, but it's hard to know just how big the impact could be." (Related: Gina Rodriguez Wants You to Love Your Body Through All Its Ups and Downs)

To help champion this cause, Rodriguez has partnered with Always and Feeding America for their #EndPeriodPoverty campaign, which donates period products to women in the U.S. who are unable to buy pads or tampons. That number is way larger than you might think: According to a recent Always survey, almost one in five American girls have had to miss school at least once due to lack of menstrual products.

On the bright side, the country has already taken some steps in the right direction. In April, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York announced that public schools in the state are required to provide free menstrual products for girls in grades 6 through 12. Thanks to a similar law in California, Title I public schools in the U.S. also have to stock menstrual products. And more and more states are repealing their "tampon taxes" that make tampons prohibitively expensive to many people. (Plus, female inmates finally have access to free pads and tampons in federal prisons.) But as Rodriguez points out, there's still a long way to go in period protection equality.

"I know we won't fix it overnight, but we're starting to see some real improvements and I am full of hope," she wrote. "Driving awareness is an important step in bringing about bigger changes." She's definitely doing her part to take that step.

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