by: Keisha Whaley
I have always had terrible periods. Yes, I am a woman. I menstruate regularly. It sucks every single time. My issue is endometriosis, and while I recognize that most women don’t have it (thankfully, envious as I may be), I still don’t want anyone to have to have a bad or awkward period. While FLOW isn’t named solely for its connotation to periods, being involved with this organization has given me a vehicle to become the Menstruation Maven I’ve always wanted to be.
A video produced by Buzzfeed back in December of 2016 alerted us to a problem we knew nothing about — menstrual products are rarely, if ever, donated to charities and shelters, nor are they provided to female inmates in jails and prisons. With over 125 million women in the U.S., it seems bizarre that these products wouldn’t be available. We all, without intervention, can be expected to go through a monthly cycle, so it’s not some kind of surprise. Of course, there’s the luxury tax to contend with. Is this why we can’t provide these products to women who can’t afford them?
FLOW decided it was up to us to act on this issue. Partnering with the Northwest Community Center for the month of March, we began our first Pad Drive to provide disposable and reusable pads for refugee women living in Dallas. The center has been actively offering help and resources to the dense population of refugee families in the area since March 2016, yet no one was willing to donate menstrual products. What’s more, many women receiving help come from areas where tampons, cups, and other products aren’t available or even talked about. Pads were the closest to what they would have and be comfortable with at home, yet they were out of reach. [Enter FLOW]
With our first Pad Drive, we were able to provide 164 women with one cycle’s worth of protection. We received donations from women (and men!) all over DFW who, like me, didn’t want another woman having a bad or awkward period. Some brought in pads, some had them shipped, others sent money asking for it to go toward their purchase. While we didn’t meet our goal of 180 women supplied, we got close enough to see that this is something important. It’s something we have to continue to help our fellow bleeders feel covered.