TAMPA, Fla. — More than 500 million women and girls across the world don’t have access to basic menstrual products, according to the World Bank. It’s known as “period poverty” and for many girls, it can have very serious consequences, and even impact their education.

What You Need To Know

  •  Beginning July 1, the state will provide funding for schools to offer free menstrual products

  •  Aanya Patel petitioned school board to provide free menstrual products in Title I schools prior to law passing

  •  All Hillsborough County Title I middle & high schools will have dispensers in women's restrooms with free products

Florida lawmakers recognized that and passed a new law that will go into effect on July 1, authorizing school districts to provide menstrual hygiene products at no charge in all schools.

One Hillsborough County student started her own non-profit, The Global Girls Initiative, and she’s pushed for these types of changes in local schools for many years.

“This is the menstrual hygiene dispenser that I was able to create,” said Aanya Patel as she showed Spectrum Bay News 9 one of the dispensers that you’ll find in all Hillsborough County Title I middle and high schools this coming school year.

“A lot of times we put donations in the schools so they come from all different brands of pads so we can fit all of those in this dispenser,” she said.

The donations are from her non-profit, The Global Girls Initiative, which she started after learning about “period poverty” and realized how big of a problem it is, even here in Hillsborough County.

“When I was talking to my own school nurse, and I was talking to her about access to period products and she said, ‘Yeah, a lot of girls come in, dozens of girls come in each week asking for a period product but the school doesn’t have a budget to afford them so I have to turn them away.’ And that was something, I was like ‘wow,’” said Patel.

Patel set out to change that. She spoke at numerous school board meetings, laying out the facts to board members, and asking them to do more. Finally, she convinced them to purchase the menstrual product dispensers and fill them with her donations.

“I’m very glad to know that my peers and other incoming students won’t have to miss out on school, and miss out on their education and miss out on participating in extracurricular activities. They’ll have the confidence to do everything they want to do because they have access to something as simple as this,” she said.

And since Patel just graduated, it’s a legacy she’s proudly leaving behind.

With the new law, Hillsborough County schools will be provided with state funding to keep Patel’s dispensers stocked up throughout the years.