At EasyStandard, we are proud to support women-run nonprofits through our EasyGiving program. By identifying and partnering with impactful organizations, we’re able to work together in making important strides in women’s healthcare, enterprise, and leadership. One of these partners is Period.
Think quick: How many places do you have a couple of tampons stashed? Under the bathroom sink? Zipped into “that pocket” of your everyday handbag? Rolling around loose in the glove compartment of your car? Access to menstrual hygiene products is something many of us take for granted, but for some people it’s almost a luxury.
Nicky Dawkins, a holistic reproductive health doula and activist in Miami, has seen firsthand the lengths some go to stretch their meager supply of products.
“In my community, I've noticed there is a lot of ‘pad rationing,’ especially in the shelters. This means the menstruators are stretching their period products’ use by wearing them longer than they should, washing them and reusing them or only allowing themselves a certain number of products per period,” Nicky said. “I've also noticed that there is a lot of general stigma around the topic. People are afraid to talk about their cycles, their pain or their experiences with periods.”
This stigma, coupled with issues like the so-called tampon tax, have long made period poverty a problem, and it’s become more pronounced since the start of the pandemic. Previously, one in five students didn’t have adequate access to period products. Today, that number is one in four. People in shelters and those who are incarcerated also are more likely to struggle with reliable access.
Enter Period., a global nonprofit committed to lessening the effects of period poverty and stigma. The organization currently has 400 service partners and 300 community chapters across the United States and abroad. With an annual budget of only $1 million, it’s making huge progress in improving access to products as well as conversations related to menstruation. Last year, Period gave more than 5 million period products to people in need — completely free of charge.
For her part, Nicky founded Period Miami in 2017 after she realized there was a serious need for period education and supplies in her community.
“I already had a passion for periods and worked in the reproductive health space, so it was a very natural progression for me,” Nicky said.
It’s a period pack party
A big part of each Period. chapter’s work is forging solid relationships with local donors and supporters to raise money and collect donations of menstrual hygiene products.
“We are always getting creative with our fundraising and try to collaborate with local businesses as much as possible. Creating dropoff locations has been a huge success for us as far as collecting product during the pandemic,” Nicky said.
Once a chapter has accumulated a significant amount of product, it reaches out to its service partners to identify their specific needs. To prevent waste — and to ensure the dignity of each person served — it’s important that each organization gets the products it needs most.
But providing these products isn’t all logistics and spreadsheets. Nicky said there’s serious fun to be had.
“Typically, we will host a packing party to create period packs with 20 items in each bag,” Nicky said.
Advocating for accessibility
In addition to providing free menstruation supplies, Period. has developed educational projects aimed at reducing period stigma as well as advocacy efforts seeking to address period poverty through legislation.
Period parity has been a global issue for several years now. Since 2019, the United Nations has recognized menstrual hygiene as a human rights and public-health issue. Today, nations including Scotland, France and New Zealand have laws that fund the distribution of free period products at public schools.
In the U.S., progress in this direction happens on a state-by-state basis. California, Illinois, New York and New Hampshire were among the first to start providing products at public schools. Last year, the state of Washington passed legislation to not only distribute products in public schools but also eliminate the tampon tax, an informal name for a practice that classifies pads and tampons alongside cosmetics and perfumes as taxable luxury items.
Nicky says her chapter formed a coalition with other organizations to push for similar change in Florida. Although their bill, the Learning with Dignity Act, did not pass this year, Nicky said the group learned some valuable lessons along the way and that they’re not ready to throw in the towel.
“We are much more prepared now, especially since other states have passed similar bills. 2022 will be our year!” Nicky said.
Want to get involved?
Here are three ways you can contribute to Period’s efforts:
- Share about their work and events on social. There’s always something happening.
- Make a donation. Period. chapters are 100% volunteer run, so your donation helps them keep their mission alive. You can donate products to your local chapter, but monetary donations are particularly helpful because they allow chapters to buy products at a discounted rate and help cover other expenses for things like materials, marketing tools and event costs.
- Volunteer or start a chapter. Connecting with a Period. chapter near you is a wonderful way to give back to your community. If there are no Period. chapters or menstrual equity organizations in your area, you can start our own.