Graduate students fight for period equity in all Minnesota schools 

The Minnesota Senate and House will vote today on an education omnibus bill that includes a period equity bill, which will provide free menstrual products to Minnesota students in public and charter schools. Graduate students in Gender & Women’s Studies Collective Action course hope their activism has made a difference in the bill’s consideration. 

Collective Action is a graduate-level course that gives students a chance to put skills learned throughout their education to use at a practical level. This spring, the course has seven students who together decided to focus their efforts on period equity in Minnesota schools. 

This past Thursday, they held their final event, a letter-writing session geared toward high school students in the Mankato community. Maya Wenzel, one of the students in Collective Action, was inspired by her sister’s experiences at Mankato West for the course’s project. 

“My younger sister told me about how one day she saw a bucket of period products in the girl’s bathroom, and someone put a note on it reading ‘period products should be free’. It was definitely an issue when I was in school, and it’s clearly an important issue to young people in the community. I brought that to the group,” said Wenzel. 

Throughout the semester, the graduate students have spread awareness, created petitions, and educated other MSU students as well as the greater Mankato community on the subject of period equity. 

“We had a small group event writing letters with our course to practice, we had a letter-writing event with the Women’s Center, and we had a table at the Lift Every Voice women’s history event. We got a lot of traffic at that event,” Wenzel explained. 

The writing event aimed at high school students was held at the YWCA center in downtown Mankato. The Collective Action students put together materials to help attendees structure letters to send to district legislators and had small bags filled with stickers, informational fliers, and free menstrual products. 

Another member of the course, MeMe Cronin, gave a brief presentation about the history of the period equity bill and how period poverty has increased in recent years due to COVID. After the presentation, the high school students in attendance wrote letters along with the graduate students. 

Because the topic chosen is currently under consideration by Minnesota legislation, it added an extra challenge for the graduate students, including Dominik Drabent. 

“It’s been a journey with a lot of different diversions. Activism is not always straightforward. It’s nice that we’ve focused on letter writing events because the bill is going through the house and senate,” Drabent said. 

The period equity bill was first proposed by the National Council of Jewish Women, has since been combined into an education omnibus bill, and has met little opposition on its journey.

Header Photo: From left to right, Maimuna Fariha, Maya Wenzel, Dominik Drabent, Rhonda Italiano and MeMe Cronin. (Courtesy Photo)

Write to Alexandra Tostrud at Alexandra.Tostrud@mnsu.edu

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