NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP)– Light is being shone on an often taboo subject that affects all women: their period.

An effort is underway to make feminine hygiene products free in New York City schools. On the state level, female lawmakers are trying to lift the sales tax on tampons and pads.

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“I think that they’re synonymous with toilet paper and if men got periods, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion,” Nancy Kramer, who founded the campaign “Free The Tampon,” told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.

Tampons and sanitary pads will soon be available for free to women and girls at homeless shelters.

Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., said Tuesday that she had convinced the Federal Emergency Management Agency to add feminine hygiene products to the list of key items that can be bought with grant money at shelters. Meng released a letter from FEMA Director W. Craig Fugate in which he said the national board of the Emergency Food and Shelter Program voted on Jan. 8 to make the items eligible. The change will become effective in April.

“We had heard reports of homeless women who would use cloth or rags when they got their period,” Meng told 880.

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Shelters can spend grant money on items such as blankets, toilet paper, soap and toothpaste.

Feminine hygiene products were not on the list. Meng complained to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in January.

“I thank FEMA for agreeing to my request and for understanding how critical feminine hygiene products are to women,” Meng said in a statement. “Homeless women and girls in shelters face serious hygiene and health issues when they do not have access to these essential items.”

Meng has introduced legislation that would allow Americans to buy feminine hygiene products with money from flexible spending accounts.

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