Globally, one in ten girls miss classes because of lack of access to period products, according to a 2014 United Nations report. Called “period poverty,” those numbers have grown to one in four in the U.S., India and Brazil. Girls resort to socks, toilet paper, bread and even pieces of newspaper to try and stem the monthly flow so as to ensure they can attend classes and not curtail their education.
Those numbers led Daniela Rios, a P&G director of government relations and public policy, to push for a bill that would provide free menstrual supplies for low-income girls and women in her country. The bill was signed into law in March. Similar global decisions have followed including Scotland’s recent move to supply free period products to anyone who needs them across the nation, as of August.
To Rios, the victory she fought for in her country is just a starting point, one that she believes should be opened to all around the world. You can hear more from Rios about how she persuaded legislators in Brazil to pen the law, and what it meant for her when she heard the news about its passing.
I have been working at P&G for almost 10 years. I joined P&G to be in government relations. Before that I used to work in other companies as legal. Here I have the chance of working with public policies. That is my passion. I am passionate about public policies, because I think that is a way to change lives. I think that is really connected to the mission of the company, and to my personal mission, I think that we should act when you see something wrong, and doing the right thing is the right thing to do. According to United Nations, one of 10 girls miss classes because of the lack of period products. Last year 2021, I realized that in this country, in Brazil, the reality is even worse. One of four girls miss classes, because of the lack of this basic product. We also see that for most part, the girls, they hide the reason why they are doing that. The lack of confidence is also important. It is something that increase the gaps between who has the opportunity of having period products. It’s crazy to see that it’s a privilege in this country, and also around the globe.
I know that some people here are using pieces of newspaper, or using pieces of bread. Can you imagine using bread in your body, to try to keep at school to try to keep at sports or have a social life. This is unacceptable. The lowest classes are the ones who struggle with using alternatives. Better alternatives during the period is not about the individual, but it’s about the society. So I knew that we could do something. We are a big company, we have doors to open, and I wanted so much to talk to people. I always knew that we could do something.
I proposed some bold ideas of going on a tour around the country, explaining to authorities, explaining to congress people explaining to governors, Secretaries of Education, Secretaries of Health, ‘What are the consequences, why we have a problem here, and how can we solve it?’
Here we have a campaign around donation. We distribute pads for the girls, but it’s not enough. We need to have public policies. This is something that will last and the company trusted me. It was a great gift that they believe it was possible. And after 10 months working hard to have attention from the authorities and decision makers, we have legislation passed in the Brazilian congress, that is an obligation from the government in Brazil to provide pads.
My daughter is four years old. I tried to explain what happened because she saw me crying the day that the Brazilian congress passes the legislation. I was crying, I was screaming, I was hugging my husband. She of course wanted you to understand what was going on. I tried to explain that I was trying to make the world better, for her, and for society.
I’m really happy about everything that’s happened and how it happens. But it’s not the end of the line. It’s a journey. We keep on that work, to make sure that girls in all have the same opportunities. I think that when I come to a company like P&G, that is a creative one, that is a company that believes in innovation, not just for products, but also in process. Also for society. We are always thinking about serving. We are always thinking about evolution. We are always thinking about opportunities, and this is why I feel I’m in the right place to lead with love.