Several years ago Suzanne Cody was volunteering at the Children’s Home of Reading when she heard whispers that they were running low on period products. This was her first introduction to period poverty, an often-unspoken public health crisis.
Period poverty is defined as inadequate access to menstrual hygiene products and education, which disproportionally effects lower-income families According to the Alliance for Period Supplies, 1 in 7 women and girls between the age of 12 and 44 lives below the Federal Poverty Line in Pennsylvania.
Without access to these products, many women who are already struggling to make ends meet cannot go to work. 1 in 4 teens in the US has missed class due to lack of access to period supplies. Many women and girls resort to using other items on hand, such as shoe insoles, toilet paper, cardboard, or socks, which can lead to dangerous infections.
Shocked and horrified, Suzanne shared her concern with Liz Hafer, Chairwoman of the Berks Women in Motion networking group. “BWIM is not only a networking group,” Liz explains. “One of our key components is community outreach, focusing on local non-profits and organizations that help women and children. Our members are advocates for women in business, and individually and collectively give back to those in need. Knowing this message needed to be heard, I suggested Suzanne make a short presentation at an upcoming luncheon.”
The message was well received, and after her talk Suzanne met Stacy Perlaki, who worked at Opportunity House, and Alison Pakradooni, owner of Be Mine Boutique in West Reading. Together, they created the first Help a Girl Out drive.
Help a Girl Out is now in its third year. They collect diapers, pads, tampons, period underwear, wipes, and incontinence products—basically everything from cradle to grave. These products are then distributed to four local organizations.
Their last drive collected just under 30,000 units of feminine products. This year they are hoping for even more donations to split between Opportunity House, Children’s Home of Reading, Safe Berks, and the LGBT Center of Greater Reading.
To learn more about menstrual equity and how you can be part of the solution, the community is invited to a livestreamed discussion on the Berks Women in Motion Facebook page on Tuesday, January 30th at 6:30 PM.
The campaign will kick off on Thursday, February 1st at 5:30 PM at the Be Mine Boutique in West Reading, where you can meet the community partners, enjoy wine and cookies, and pick up a donation bin to collect products throughout the month. Those donations should be returned to Muhlenberg Greene Architects in Wyomissing by noon on March 1st.
“There’s a lot of stigma around this issue,” Suzanne shares. “I just want to bring awareness to this very upsetting need here in our community. No woman should have to miss work and no girl should have to miss school because they’re getting their period. It’s time to change that.”
For more information about the drive, or register for the kickoff event visit mg-architects.com/events/help-a-girl-out-product-drive-57a4y