(Aug 22, 2022) Catherine Read talks with Holly Seibold, Founder of BRAWS: Bringing Resources to Aid Women’s Shelters, a non-profit established in 2015. BRAWS started as a direct services organization to meet the needs of women in area shelters with menstrual supplies, new bras, and underwear.
Recognizing the lack of basic supplies to manage monthly periods was impacting menstruating individuals in jails, prisons, and schools, she expanded her efforts to include legislative advocacy. Three marquis legislative goals have been met since Holly began her advocacy work.
Working with Delegate Kaye Kory, House Bill 83 – which ensures access to menstruating inmates at no cost, was passed in 2018. The bill was signed into law by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. Holly Seibold and Gianna Feinberg authored an article for the Richmond Public Interest Law Review that looks at this issue in detail.
Working with Senator Jennifer Boysko in 2019, a bill was introduced to eliminate the “tampon tax.” While that tax was not eliminated that year, it was cut in half by a bill signed into law by Gov. Northam. That reduction was effective Jan. 1, 2020. With the election of a new Governor in 2021, elimination of the tax on groceries became part of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s first year agenda. Senator Boysko was successful in getting menstrual supplies added to that list of products exempt from taxation, and effective Jan. 1, 2023, pads and tampons will be tax free in Virginia.
In 2020, Delegate Mark Keam introduced HB 405 which would require that pads and tampons be made available in the restrooms of Virginia’s public schools in all 132 school districts. That bill was passed along with the companion Senate Bill 232 sponsored by Senator Jennifer Boysko. This bill will impact the lives of an estimated 630,000 menstruating students in Virginia.
The term “menstrual equity” began to appear in 2016 with the dawning awareness that it wasn’t only women and girls in third world countries that were disadvantaged by the stigma of periods and the lack of access to basic supplies. Jennifer Weiss Wolfe authored the book Periods Gone Public in 2017, and it wasn’t long before she made a connection with Holly Seibold and Delegate Mark Keam. After doing a book presentation and signing at Bard’s Alley in Vienna, VA, she soon found herself on a panel about #MenstrualEquity at Netroots Nation in New Orleans in August 2018. That panel featured Holly Seibold, Delegate Mark Keam, then Delegate Jennifer Boysko and was moderated by Catherine Read.
Previous interviews with Holly include an interview on Making Change Radio in April 2020 just as the pandemic shutdowns were beginning across the region and around the globe. Collaborative work with other human services nonprofits ensured needed menstrual supplies were being delivered to those in need along with food and diapers. That distribution network is managed largely by volunteers and continues to this day.