A “period emergency” that had her scrambling for a pad or tampon in the middle of math class inspired eighth-grader Cordelia Longo to convince her school to provide such necessities for free to all female students.
According to NBC, the teenager got herself in a frustrating situation one day in April after she ran out of dimes trying to find a restroom with a working sanitary napkin and tampon dispenser in her school in Mercer Island, Washington.
It turned out, the machines at Islander Middle School were either empty or broken at that time, and there was nothing else she could do.
The incident had left the 14-year-old determined to change things for the better.
“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. “They already have to deal with so much and this seemed like something I should fix.”
Longo immediately acted by drafting a petition that informed students of the lack of feminine hygiene products in the girls’ restroom at their school.
After gathering 100 signatures from teachers and students, she sent the petition to the school administration along with a letter.
“Why are tissues and toilet paper provided free at school, but not sanitary pads and tampons?” it read. “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.”
Free tampons in school bathrooms? A 14-year-old girl in Mercer Island made it happen at her school https://t.co/rPSkSfFuy0 pic.twitter.com/0H5DROOI8F
— The Seattle Times (@seattletimes) May 15, 2017
Her efforts eventually paid off as the school immediately fixed its machines and stopped charging money for the supplies.
“We appreciated Cordelia bringing this issue to our attention earlier this year. We are very proud of her for doing that, and for putting into practice the skills she gained in the social justice class at Islander Middle School,” Mercer Island School District spokesperson Craig Degginger was quoted by USA Today as saying.
Longo, who is a Mien-American adoptee, was born in Sacramento, California. She was adopted at age 1 and was raised in San Francisco before the family moved to Seattle.
According to her mother Jennifer, since they moved to Seattle, their daughter was able to connect well with the Mien community, adding that the teenager is very proud of her Mien heritage.
“I actually didn’t know a lot about my culture until recently because my parents got me interested in the Mien culture,” said Cordelia Longo.
14 y/o Cordelia Longo organized & advocated for free menstrual supplies at her school. So awesome! #YouthPowerAtWork https://t.co/1fxkG0IQzg pic.twitter.com/fVnujcW4P2
— Third Wave Fund (@3Wave) July 1, 2017
A self-confessed feminist, the teen says she is very passionate about social justice issues and dreams of becoming a journalist someday.
Looking back, she said she is grateful that her petition got the support it needed.
“I feel like if we all get together, all of the people who are in favor of social justice and equal access to education, I feel hopeful. I feel satisfied that I created this petition and wrote this letter and made a difference in our school,” she said.
Cordelia’s petition also became instrumental in having the school district fix the machines and disable its payment mechanisms at the local high school as well.