The Knockturnal got the chance to speak with activist and actress Jameela Jamil who has recently partnered with P&G’s Always to help in the fight to end period poverty and support Congresswoman Grace Meng’s Menstrual Equity for All Act. This act would help systemically end period poverty in the U.S. Today, Jameela also delivered a keynote speech in Washington, D.C., to encourage policymakers to support the bill to drive systemic change. The fight to end period poverty is due to lack of access to period protection. Period poverty is a serious problem which affects people all around the world. One of the stigmas surrounding period poverty is that it only happens in unwealthy countries, but even in the most economically developed countries period poverty is an extremely serious issue. In fact, here in the U.S., nearly 1 in 5 girls have missed school because they didn’t have access to period products. Since the launch of Always’ #EndPeriodPoverty program in 2018, Always has donated over 160 million period products to people in need around the world, including more than 50 million in the U.S., in partnership with organizations like Feeding America®, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. “Millions of people across our nation suffer from a lack of access to period products and are forced to forego educational or employment opportunities because of it,” said Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY). “As we celebrate Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28th, I urge everyone, including legislators, to support my Menstrual Equity for All Act. It is the first whole-of-government approach to address this issue and would help end the problem of period poverty.” To further help raise awareness around the prevalence of period poverty across the country and motivate society at large to support the bill, Always partnered with Jameela Jamil, who spoke to us on the issue.
You are partnering with P&G’s Always to help end period poverty and support Congresswoman Grace Meng’s Menstrual Equity for All Act, so could you just talk to us a little bit about why this was so important for you?
It’s so important to me because it is so maddening, frustrating, and shocking that even in 2022 we are even having this conversation. In 2022, in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, we have 3.5 million girls a year not being able to go to school because they don’t have access to period protection. We have 1 in 5 girls in the United States, and we’re talking in the millions here. This isn’t just in unwealthy states this is an issue in major cities as well like Los Angeles, New York, and Atlanta. I think the subject has just been ignored because when we hear the phrase “period poverty” we think of the countries that don’t have this much wealth, and yet the United States is managing to fail 50% of a population by not making sure everyone has access to the dignity and protection of period products. These statistics are ridiculous it makes me so upset.
Has this been a project that you have always been passionate about or has learning more about the term “period poverty” and partnering with P&G’s Always made you more passionate?
Oh no, it’s something I have always been passionate about. I remember just a few years ago the UK went through a similar motion and we had tremendous success over there. It just has never occurred to me that in the United States of America that this was going on. So when this was brought to my attention, and I was offered the chance to partner up with Always and their amazing work in this area to not only donate a million pads to Feeding America® and trying to help in the fight to end period poverty, but to also it was just an honor to be a part of this fight and spreading awareness. I really think a lot of people don’t know, and part of that is we still find periods quite awkward to talk about which is something that also has to end because it’s such a natural event that nobody should feel any shame about. I’ve always tried to use my platform to raise awareness about important issues, and this is very high up on my list because I can’t believe what young people are going through the indignity of being neglected to this degree that you are now having your education suffer. It is mortifying.
You are also delivering the keynote speech in Washington, D.C. today, to encourage policymakers to support the bill were you nervous at all for that?
I wasn’t nervous for it, I just felt very excited and very honored to be able to talk about this subject. I just feel very hopeful that we can be a part of waking people up and also reminding all the people reading this interview that we have the power to change the situation. I feel as though we have been deliberately deterred away from this conversation and we haven’t been made as aware of how severe these things are. Now we know we must use all of our power as the people as the masses to put pressure on all of our elected officials to make sure that they support this important act. We also need to look at who we are allowing to represent us in power. We really need to be as educated as possible and we are learning with everything we are seeing with the reproduction rights being rolled back that we can not be complacent because it is to our detriment to not use all of our voting power and all of our opportunity to engage and change the situation for half of the population.
You talked about how it starts with the people, so what can people at home do to better support this cause?
Call your elected officials. Truly that is the first place to start because they do listen if enough pressure is applied. We have seen this again and again, as soon as the people become politically motivated and they group together and join forces we have seen astonishing turn outs. This is something that could actually be quite simple to deal with we just have to apply the pressure. They benefit from our inaction and our silence. We can not let them get away with this gross negligence anymore because it is mortifying, offensive, and frankly inhumane.
How did this support and partnership with Congresswoman Grace Meng come about?
Well that was via Always. Always was already working with her and I was able to join in to utilize my platform to be able to further the awareness around this subject because so many people don’t know. Nobody ever hears the word poverty and thinks about the United States, and there is so much poverty in the United States. No one would ever presume that in the United States of America we have period poverty. People need to understand that no one is galvanized to act because we don’t even know that it’s happening.
With reproductive rights currently being challenged I think it is also the perfect time to be bringing in period poverty into the discussion because it is very real and there is a stigma, so what do you think some of the steps those who do not have periods could take to also support and care about this act?
They should also be calling their elected officials otherwise people with periods are going to bleed all over their belongings, on their couches, or clothes because there are real consequences for everyone involved. We all win when we deal with this subject head on. It’s really important. It’s going to impact you in some way it’s going to impact someone you love, someone you know in some way so join the fight! We can not just keep looking at these subjects that are about basic human rights us “us” and “them” and “not my problem”. By now of all times we must learn that we must take on every fight together. We are deliberately divided because together we are so much stronger so we need to come together.