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Non-Profit partnership works to solve period poverty locally and nationally

UK+students+prepare+a+menstrual+product+drive.+Photo+courtesy+of+Meg+Gazula.+
UK students prepare a menstrual product drive. Photo courtesy of Meg Gazula.

Period poverty, or the inability to purchase or have access to period supplies, is a problem affecting those who menstruate across the globe. 

“Two in five people in the US struggle to purchase period products,” said Zoey Craft, the manager of legislative policy at the Alliance for Period Supplies, “Period poverty is an issue that is really a hidden consequence of poverty that a lot of our friends, students and community members are dealing with on a day-to-day basis.” 

But as Meg Gazula, a board member at Helping Hygiene explained, affordability is only part of the issue. 

“Affordability is one thing with period poverty, it’s also accessibility. A lot of people just don’t have access to these products,” Gazula said. This is especially true in rural areas of Kentucky. 

Thankfully, the Alliance for Period Supplies is working to combat period poverty. It is a national network of over 120 local nonprofit organizations, which are referred to as allied programs. These allied programs help distribute period supplies to their local communities.

One of those allied programs is Helping Hygiene, a Lexington based 501C3 founded by University of Kentucky (UK) students. Founder of Helping Hygiene, Kotomi Yokokura, explains that the organization often receives requests from people living in service deserts asking for the non-profit to send them period products. In some rural places, people have to drive up to 20 miles to get to the nearest store. Yokokura founded Helping Hygiene after first starting a club for other UK students passionate about conquering period poverty called Take a Tampon. Helping Hygiene takes their reach beyond UK’s campus to assist more Kentucky communities.

Working at the campus, local and national levels, these three connected organizationsTake a Tampon, Helping Hygiene, and the Alliance for Period Suppliesare tackling period poverty in multiple ways.

The first is by directly distributing period products to those in need. Take a Tampon, the UK student group, created baskets of supplies to place around their campus. The club has had to find creative ways to overcome a lack of funding. 

It is really hard because we don’t get funding,” Gazula said. The club has had to prioritize the 10 most populous restrooms around campus to stock, such as the library and other major classroom buildings. They try to stock these locations every two weeks. Funding is not as much of an issue for Helping Hygiene, however, due to their status as an allied program.

“A cool thing that’s happened through that partnership we have through the Alliance for Period Supplies is we recently got a donation of over 100,000 panty liners, and so right now we’re distributing it throughout Kentucky,” Yokokura said. Helping Hygiene has been able to distribute these donations to homeless shelters, food banks and high schools.

The model that the Alliance for Period Supplies has developed allows local nonprofits to have a wider impact by equipping them not only with supplies to distribute, but also with the knowledge they need to succeed. 

“I get to talk to people who are running huge nonprofits in various areas of the nation, people who are advocating in DC and that kind of thing,” Yokokura said.

Another way the trio of organizations are combating period poverty is through education and advocacy. Take a Tampon is working to raise awareness about period poverty by simply talking about the issue.

“We had a display in the library where we had students write down their stories about period poverty and then we hung it up in the main library on campus,” Gazula said. By highlighting the stories of real people, Take a Tampon hopes to destigmatize menstruation and encourage the UK community to take action.

The club is also conscious of groups who may be overlooked in terms of period poverty such as members of the LGBTQ+ community, and they work to make inclusive period products available in single user and male bathrooms. 

Additionally, Take a Tampon works with Senator Harper Angel each year to advance legislation to mandate that free period products be supplied in schools. Their efforts aim to increase access to period products and to amplify student voices in front of the Kentucky legislature. A previous RedEye article discusses the 2023 version of the bill.

The Alliance for Period Supplies, on the other hand, is tackling advocacy at the national level, “One great piece of legislation that was just reintroduced in Congress is the Menstrual Equity for All Act. We’re really advocating for that. It would help to promote more equitable access to period products,” Craft said. 

The national organization is also busy equipping their allied programs with the confidence to make policy change on the local level. One example of this work is the Student Advocacy toolkit, which contains background information and tips on how to contact school and local officials about creating policies to combat period poverty in schools.

“The goal of this is really to put the power back in the hands of the students who are impacted by this issue every day,” Craft said. 

Helping Hygiene is doing student outreach of their own by educating high schoolers on the reality of menstruation through presentations and infographics they have created for students.

“Menstruation in general is very stigmatized, so us trying to educate high schoolers or even students in college is more to just talk about it so people don’t shy away from menstruation,” Gazula said. 

The Alliance for Period Supplies utilizes a three sector model to make change. Sector one encompasses Allied Programs doing local work, like Helping Hygiene. Sector two comprises other philanthropic efforts, like Take a Tampon, and sector three focuses on community advocates for menstruation equity, which can be anyone who recognizes a need for this work. Combatting a problem as big as period poverty requires a multipronged approach.

Through education, advocacy and distribution of free period supplies, this collaboration between organizations works at the school, local, and national levels to improve lives one pad or tampon at a time.

About the Contributor
Isabella Edghill, Webmaster
Isabella Edghill is Webmaster for Manual RedEye this year. She enjoys reading and playing the violin, and is passionate about exploring issues around diversity, identity and empowerment. You can contact her at [email protected].
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