Brookline High School students spearhead feminine hygiene legislation

BROOKLINE, Mass. — Brookline made history at its town meeting Thursday night when the Board of Selectman approved new legislation that requires all public restrooms have free feminine hygiene products inside.

The push for the town to give women access to feminine hygiene products -- the first town in the nation to do so -- came from a group of students at Brookline High School.

Era Laho is only a sophomore in high school, but that didn’t stop her and her peers from asking the Brookline Board of Selectmen to require all public restrooms have free women’s hygiene supplies.

"I am a woman and I know first hand the struggle of like needing these products and feeling shamed for needing these products," Laho said.

They’re part of a gender equality group at BHS. The young women spoke in front of the board Thursday night. Their stories worked and the board unanimously passed the legislation.

By 2020, all public restrooms in Brookline will have machines that dispense the products for those who need them. You’ll even find the supplies in men’s restrooms for transgender people.

"Our recreation facilities that have comfort stations, the pool, the golf course and of course our public buildings, town hall, our public health building, our public safety building," Brookline Women's Commission member Rebecca Stone said.

She worked with the students on the legislation for the past year and says Brookline is setting an example for the rest of the country.

"If this is about recognizing that this is a normal bodily function that is experienced by 52 percent of our population, this has to be treated by our public health institutions and by our towns and cities as a public hygiene issue," Stone said.

Government programs like WIC and food stamps don’t allow women to use those funds to purchase feminine supplies, so Stone and Laho say there’s still a long way to go. But this policy they say will make a difference

"I just hope that other communities around us and other towns and cities and hopefully soon the entire country will be making that step and these products will be available to everyone," Laho said.

The Brookline School Committee has also pledged to make the products available in their middle school and high school bathrooms.