Former Chicago P.D. star Sophia Bush has a new project, but it is not a new television show. The One Tree Hill star is hoping to combat gender inequality by fighting period poverty. She teamed up with Always to help girls who are forced to miss school due to a lack of period products.
"The fact that nearly one in five girls in the United States is missing school because of her period feels utterly unacceptable to me," Bush recently told TooFab. "We're talking about an issue -- which isn't an issue, it's a natural function of a healthy body -- that affects 51 percent of the population on the planet, yet we treat it as though it's some sort of taboo. We act like we shouldn't be talking about it. And because we don't talk about it, we don't treat caring for women's bodies as health care."
Bush, 37, noted that all schools should have the funding to provide menstruating kids the products they need. It is "mind-boggling" to the actress that some schools will not even consider it.
"What is a young person to do when surprised by their period? What is a young person to do when they don't have access to products at home? Are they supposed to miss school? That feels wrong to me," she said. "It just seems really illogical to me, so starting the conversation seemed like a great first step."
Outside of her acting career, Bush has long been an activist for a variety of causes, including the Time's Up initiative and helping to bring education to the developing world. When she teamed up with former First Lady Michelle Obama's Let Girls Learn initiative, she learned about the challenges that girls at schools in the U.S. face every day.
"If we start looking at the root causes of where this disparity happened between genders, you can trace it back to girls beginning to miss school, beginning to drop out of school, beginning to have their opportunities in life diminished because of hindrances to education," Bush told TooFab. "The fact that they were born in a menstruating body should not be what causes that to happen to them."
"And I should asterisk... that obviously it's easier or more traditional per data to be having these conversations about how this problem affects girls and eventually affects women, but when we're talking about teens who are struggling to take care of their own bodies at such a fragile and emotional and developmental time in life, I would be remiss to not also mention that it isn't just girls who menstruate," Bush continued. "There are trans teens all across the country who are suffering this same problem, and they're suffering it in even more difficult circumstances that hinder their ability to talk about it."
Bush added that she is working to make sure all kids get the products they need, although she understands how "daunting" that must sound to some schools. Still, she is sure it would be a "game-changer."
"If we could snap our fingers and have gender parity tomorrow, we would solve 50 percent of the UN development goals and raise the global GDP by 12 points," Bush said. "This isn't just a moral quagmire we find ourselves in; this is a smart financial imperative for the planet. Parity and equality would actually greatly elevate the quality of all people's lives."
The actress and Always want to bring more awareness to the issue with the #EndPeriodPoverty hashtag on Twitter.
Bush is best known for playing Erin Lindsay in Dick Wolf's Chicago universe shows on NBC. She recently starred in a CBS spy pilot called Surveillance, although the network chose against ordering it to series.
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