14-Year-Old Hero Convinces School To Provide Free Pads And Tampons In Bathrooms

by Megan Zander

Middle-schooler drafts petition requesting free tampons and pads in school restrooms

Having your period sucks. Realizing you’re in need of a pad or tampon and not having one readily available is even worse. But thanks to 14-year-old Cordelia Longo, girls at one Washington middle school will never again have to worry about getting stuck without period supplies when they need them.

Longo is in the eight grade at Islander Middle School in Mercer Island, Washington. This past school year, she had the awful experience of going from machine to machine in the school’s bathrooms in search of a pad or tampon. She came up empty handed. To add insult to injury, one of the machines ate her change. Luckily she found a spare pad in her bag. But the experience stuck with her, and she decided to do something about it.

“I just didn’t want any other girls to experience this. I just wanted to make people’s lives better — girls’ lives easier,” Longo told NBC News. “They already have to deal with so much and this seemed like something I should fix.”

While the school did have free period supplies in the nurse’s office, Longo felt like not many students were aware of that as an option. (Plus who wants to run across the school to the office for a pad while you’re free bleeding?) She wrote a petition to the school requesting they stock tampons and pads in bathrooms the same as toilet paper, since both are used for natural bodily functions. The petition quickly got over 100 signatures from her fellow students.

Along with the petition, Longo drafted a letter to the school administration explaining her position. “Why are tissues and toilet paper provided free at school, but not sanitary pads and tampons?” read the letter. “As toilet paper and tissue are used for normal bodily functions, sanitary pads and tampons are also necessary to address normal bodily functions that happen naturally. The only difference is that only girls need pads. Girls do not choose to have periods. So girls are being penalized and made to pay for a bodily function they cannot control.”

Yes, child. YES.

Obviously Longo’s not one to sit around and wait, so while the school administration was reviewing her letter and petition, she went ahead and used her own allowance money to create baskets filled with tampons and pads to leave in the school restrooms. And just in case you’re not already giving her a standing ovation, she wrote positive notes and inspiring quotes on all the baskets, like Hillary Clinton’s “Women’s rights are human rights. Human rights are women’s rights.”

Her interest in gender equality and social justice blossomed after taking a social justice class and following the events of the 2016 Presidential election. “Hillary Clinton inspired me because she kept being strong and she didn’t take any of the insults people threw at her and didn’t let it affect her,” she said. “It inspired me in a way that I can’t really describe,” she continued. “I realized even if I didn’t succeed in getting equal rights for men and women, that I had tried and all that mattered was that I tried my hardest to get equal access to education.”

Fortunately the young activist had nothing to fear. Within three weeks of Longo creating her petition, the school took steps to have free tampons and pads available in bathrooms. “We appreciate Cordelia bringing this issue to our attention, we are very proud of her for doing that, and for putting into practice the skills she gained in the social justice class,” a district spokesperson told NBC News via email. “We have repaired any broken or empty machines and they [no] longer require any coins for feminine hygiene supplies. Ample supplies are also available in the health room and locker rooms.”

Who runs the world? Girls like Longo.