Menstrual justice

The Temple B'rith Sholom Sisterhood recently learned about "menstrual justice" and turned education into action, donating "feminine hygiene products" to Sojourn House. The Sisterhood is a vibrant group of Jewish women who serve the temple and local community in myriad ways. Social justice is a pillar of Reform Judaism and a priority of the Sisterhood.

Worldwide there is a stigma associated with menstruation, with many ripple effects. The United States is not immune, and there is increasing inequity. Sanitary products are costly. Bullying and vilification are prevalent. Discussing the issue is often taboo. It is not uncommon for girls to miss school. "Period poverty" is a serious issue that numerous organizations are working to end by providing services, education and advocacy.

The World Health Organization urges recognition of menstruation as a health issue with physical, psychological and social dimensions, and not exclusively a hygiene issue. There is a growing coalition of universities, non-governmental organizations and government agencies coming together to address the problems.

Illinois enacted legislation effective Jan. 1, 2017, to exempt feminine hygiene (and incontinence) products from state sales tax. Legislation signed into law in June 2022 requires public schools in Illinois to provide free menstrual products. However, federal programs, such as SNAP and WIC, don't cover the cost of these products.

Educate, advocate and donate are ways the Temple B'rith Sholom Sisterhood intends to help address this social justice issue, says Kathleen Parienti, president of the Sisterhood. She says education is needed to make it comfortable for both genders to talk about menstruation and for boys to understand what a period is. The Sisterhood will continue to collect menstrual products and donate them to different recipients several times a year. To get involved, call the temple at 217-525-1360.