Let’s be real, no one really likes to talk about their menstrual cycle. Each month when we get our period, we think, Here we go … again. But, as women, we have the great honor of being the sex who can bring life into this world. And, with that comes periods.

Periods are not something to be embarrassed by. They are something that connects us to this earth and to each other. Women have periods. But, not all women who have periods can afford the products needed that allow them to go about their lives — school, work and being in the community — while on their period. Imagine being an economically at-risk teen who can’t afford these items causing you to miss school simply because you don’t have period products. Imagine being a homeless woman who has her period. These are women who need our help.

As an aside, tampons and pads are expensive. We all know that. The fact that they’re taxed in the luxury tax category is ridiculous. Yes, 40 states do this. That’s another fight for another day, but it needed to be said.

As women, we’ve all been somewhere without a tampon when we really needed one. We’ve all been in a crowd and suddenly realized that our period has begun and the only thing we can think of is getting to a bathroom. Let’s be real, camping is not as easy for women as men, and it’s not just because men can stand to pee. So, how do we help out? We can buy an extra box of tampons or pads or liners and get them to where they are needed.

It’s from this recognition that non-profits are popping up in our communities.

One of the largest organizations that already has deep roots in the South is The Homeless Period Project (HPP). This organization helps all economically disadvantaged women, homeless or not, with a large emphasis on school-age girls. Based in South Carolina, HPP currently has chapters in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Kentucky, California, Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Colorado and Missouri. They have pledged to go anywhere there is a volunteer willing to organize Period Parties and spread the word.

So, what’s a Period Party? It’s when women come together, typically in someone’s home, with purchased tampons, pads and liners that are then used to create “period packs.” These are then distributed to one or more area schools so that girls can simply go to the school nurse and access the products they need. While some nurses have these products to hand out without the help of HPP, it’s often out of their own pockets that the products are purchased, and access can thus be inconsistent. HPP ensures there is a steady supply of products for the girls, but also for any female in their household who may need these products.

An example of the work being done at Period Parties

I spoke to Mara Davis in Atlanta, Georgia, about her work with HPP. Mara is a radio host, TV host, social media guru and more. In other words, she was the perfect person to get involved with HPP and be a megaphone for all the good this organization is doing. In just the last six weeks, Mara has successfully launched an Atlanta chapter, and several Period Parties have occurred. She says, “I’ve been wanting to do something around a feminine hygiene drive for a long time — it’s always been in the back of my mind. No matter what your political beliefs are or your age, everyone can support this. This brings women together to help women. HPP was exactly what I was looking for to help out. They made it easy for me to dive right in with my first Period Party. The outpouring of support from our community was overwhelming. My nearest and dearest friends from all walks of life came, and some brought their friends. Over the packing of period packs, everyone became fast friends because everyone could relate. Sisterhood was formed in a minute! You feel like you’re doing something. Everyone had a glass of wine, a small bite to eat and then saw at the end of the night what they had accomplished.”

Mara and HPP are working directly with Communities in Schools, a social work arm of 65 metro Atlanta schools, to place these period packs.

If you are inspired and want host a Period Party to help your local schools — no matter where in the country you live — Mara is passionately volunteering with HPP and will help you plan the event and find a local school for you to donate supplies. That’s a pledge the co-founder and executive director of HPP, Sharon Champion, has made. Mara, media maven that she is, is spreading this word on behalf of HPP and helping to organize such efforts. Email her for details at [email protected].

Here’s a Period Party at Mara Davis’ house. Everyone left with a sisterhood bond.

Another example of one woman’s passion for this issue is happening in Nashville, TN, where she recently wrapped a month-long Period Project Campaign, which ended on September 30, 2018. This project was spearheaded by Belmont University associate professor Dr. Lakisha Simmons. The plight of economically disadvantaged high school girls and their lack of access to period products resonated with her, and she wanted to make a difference. Dr. Simmons already had a nonprofit, The Achiever Academy, where she encourages girls to have goals and dreams and then shows them how to be accountable to those goals. She was able to take this message one step further and talk about embracing your body and not being ashamed of the fact that, as women, we have periods. Goals, dreams, accountability, periods … that’s the message Dr. Simmons is leading with these days.

Simply stated, you can’t be accountable to your goals if you are stuck at home a few days each month because you have your period and can’t afford the products necessary to deal with — let’s just say it — the blood. She was inspired to make a change, and in just a few short months, she has. She has a warehouse in Nashville that is accepting period products, and she’s also encouraging people to drop off supplies at local middle and high schools with special attention to Priority Schools (schools that fall in the bottom five percent of all Tennessee schools), of which there are currently 21. You can even order from Amazon and have products sent to the warehouse. As they work to get this system permanently set up, please email Dr. Simmons for details, as the logistics are not yet set in stone. She can be reached at [email protected]

Dr. Simmons at the warehouse on the day she and a team counted period products to later distribute to Metro Nashville Public Schools.

The team of Nashville volunteers who showed up to create period packs for Nashville-area schools

What can you do? Host a Period Party. Get in touch with HPP and start a chapter. Reach out to Dr. Simmons and see if you can help. Both The Homeless Period Project and Dr. Simmon’s The Achiever Academy are also looking for corporate sponsorships if that is an area where you are able to help.

As Mara Davis says, “As women, we’re so divided right now. It’s sad. But, no one is divided on this. This is an issue that brings all women together.”

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