By NEYA THOMAS
Many people may consider menstrual products a private women’s matter. However, according to Farhat Chowdhury, it is a subject for all. While participating in UNC Greensboro’s Three Minute Thesis competition, Chowdhury effectively explained her research and findings and emerged as the competition’s winner.
Chowdhury, a Ph.D. candidate in the Bryan School of Business and Economics’ Department of Economics, is studying applied microeconomics with a focus on education and health. Her current research is entitled “How does providing free menstrual products in schools affect test scores: Evidence from New York.”
In 2019, Chowdhury was a research assistant for DevResonance in Bangladesh. The mission of DevResonance is to improve the quality of life for disadvantaged and marginalized communities. While there she saw the issue of menstrual products come up but could see how it was being addressed. Upon her research in America, Farhat saw the same issue but little forward movement.
Through research, Chowdhury gathered information on the attendance of girls who missed classes due to the inaccessibility of menstrual products. Her research recognized the relationship between attendance and academic performance. Inadequate access to period products can impose an emotional and physical strain on women, especially those in younger age groups.
In 2018, New York became the first state to support and implement a school-based menstrual product policy. This policy stated that public schools that served students in grades six through 12 must provide feminine hygiene products in school restrooms at no cost. Since then, 24 states have passed legislation aimed at aiding public students’ access to free menstrual products.
“My research suggests that the availability of menstrual products will reduce absences leading to the improved academic performance of female students,” Chowdhury said. Takeaways from this research encompass the importance of menstrual products in schools, low-income areas, and in the world in general.
It is Chowdhury’s hope that her research will begin to help people take this issue seriously. “This isn’t just a women’s issue. Men should look at their families, their mothers, their sisters, and think how this affects them personally and professionally,” Chowdhury said. “It is important for men to understand that if they want their organization or country to flourish, they need to make sure that women have the same opportunity.”