Nearly 40 WVU students from nine senatorial districts in West Virginia traveled to the state capital this week to interact with legislators and discuss menstrual equity during the legislative session.
During the Lobby Day, organized by WVU Women’s Resource Center in partnership with Planned Parenthood Votes! South Atlantic and in coordination with the School of Social Work, Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, the Lobby Day was a statewide coordinated effort to advocate for free menstrual products in public middle and high schools and in-state correctional facilities. Not only were the students able to advocate for the issues they felt strongly about, they were also able to experience the inner workings of state government firsthand.
“A Lobby Day allows students to be more hands-on with the political machine and is one of the most efficient ways to influence elected officials,” said Holly McKinney, an undergraduate social work student who organized the day on behalf of the WRC. “We were excited to shed light on issues around menstrual equity with the hope of drawing greater attention to very personal challenges that some public-school students and incarcerated persons encounter. More importantly, we wanted to show our legislators that by working together, we can overcome these challenges.”
One of the WRC’s main initiatives is promoting menstrual equity through a newly founded Menstrual Equity Coalition. In collaboration with Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, the group is committed to providing period products that are affordable, safe and available to those in need.
Leslie Tower, director of the WRC and professor of social work, emphasized this important work at the state capital.
“By participating in activities like a Lobby Day, students gain real-world experience that they can carry into their professional practice,” said Tower. “These students were able to bring important issues to the table and practice their communication and advocacy skills by interacting with elected officials. We should never underestimate the power of giving students a voice in state government.”
Tower added, “Advocacy is one of the foundations of social work practice. I am proud that participants in our Lobby Day advocated for vulnerable populations as part of WVU’s land-grant mission. Their efforts were not on behalf of themselves but rather in the interests of their neighbors, communities and state.”
The WRC offers free menstrual products as well as other resources to the WVU community.
“We are thrilled that the WRC in partnership with Planned Parenthood South Atlantic founded has founded a Menstrual Equity Coalition across campus and with community partners,” said Charlotte Hoelke, assistant director of the WRC and clinical assistant professor. “Thanks to the generous donations of Planned Parenthood Votes! South Atlantic, WVU community members and others, we will continue to make menstrual products free and accessible at WVU.”Learn more about these “freebies” and how the WRC provides an inclusive environment where students, faculty and staff can find resources, services, events and programs related to gender awareness and equity.