Credit: Courtesy

Recently, I was stuck with my wife and a couple of friends in the endless traffic jam that occurs each afternoon on the 101. We were all telling stories about how dismal the future looked. I decided to try and change the mood by telling them about a little friend of mine.

Her name is Lilliana Sanger, a 12-year-old girl who was increasingly frustrated by the total lack of power kids her age had to control anything in their lives. One afternoon, she went into her school’s bathroom and found a young girl crying because she didn’t have enough money to buy a sanitary napkin. Lilly decided she wanted to do something about it.

She organized a hygiene product “paper drive” at her school. Donation boxes were placed throughout the campus, and she and her club were able to collect thousands of pads and tampons. They gave them to the school. But what about other girls at other schools?

Lilliana, although not yet menstruating herself, knew about the silent anxiety and shame so many young girls feel about their periods. She wondered how to get a law passed that would provide free supplies for all students in every bathroom of every school in California.

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As her 12th birthday approached, she discovered an organization that was working on the exact same project. They were backing a bill that would require public schools to stock an adequate supply of free menstrual products in all women’s and gender-neutral restrooms. In each restroom, a notice would tell students about the free products.

The group of mostly college students were planning on going to Sacramento to lobby the California Senate to pass the bill, and they invited Lilliana to join them. Even though she had to miss her classes, she agreed and took the online training session to prepare.

Armed with detailed information, Lilianna and other members of the young lobbying group worked to convince legislators the importance of addressing this issue — how many young girls suffer lifelong consequences because they lack access to menstrual products in their early years and how stressful it was to be at school and not be prepared for when their period might show up. Almost two-thirds of kids her age didn’t want to be at school while having their period.

It worked! The bill passed, and this year, every single girls’ bathroom in every single school of our state will have free feminine health-care products. What a difference one little girl can make. The traffic jam didn’t seem so bad after the story.

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