My name is Sophie Draluck, I’m a senior at Highland Park High School, and I’d love to introduce you and hopefully your students to the topics of period poverty and menstrual equity, and suggest ways for all of us to become part of the solution. I took on period poverty in 2017, after reading an article in the Chicago Tribune about teens in Uganda missing a week of school a month because they lacked access to menstrual products.
After researching the issue I discovered that this lack of access isn’t just a problem facing women in remote African villages, but that the problem is global. Even in my hometown of Highland Park, IL, where 15% of the students at my school qualify for the National School Lunch Program, women are struggling to afford menstrual products due to their high cost and unattainability through food pantries and government assistance programs. I became even more alarmed when I realized that so many people have no idea that period poverty even exists, and after meeting with the local food pantry in Highland Park, I learned that menstrual products were among the most requested, yet least donated items. Recognizing the serious collateral consequences that a lack of access to menstrual products can create, like missing school or work, I founded Cycle Forward (https://cycleforwardnow.org).
Cycle Forward creates a positive and immediate impact by collecting in-kind and cash donations that are used to fund the bulk purchase of sanitary products, which we then distribute to women in need through food pantries, shelters, and other organizations that directly serve under-resourced women and teens. So far we have donated over 65,000 menstrual products across the Chicago area, Florida, U.K., India, and Haiti. While this is a great start, women are facing period poverty in more communities than Cycle Forward can reach on its own.
As a way to empower more women and teens, Cycle Forward launched a High School Outreach project this year, to introduce the topic of period poverty at local high schools by partnering with their service clubs, and working with them to hold a period product drive for a local pantry. We hope that you will consider a school or community period product drive to support your local food pantry, allowing women and teens in your community the access to menstrual products they need to fully participate in their communities. And please know that Cycle Forward and I would be happy to help!
Whether or not you menstruate or struggle to afford menstrual products, we must all recognize that the world cannot progress when so many of her inhabitants are restricted by a natural process. We all have something to gain by women’s full participation in our communities: when girls win, we all win, and we can tackle this together! To keep up with our fight for menstrual equity, please follow us on Instagram @cycleforwardnow. Additionally, I can be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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