Students launch period poverty advocacy group

PERIOD at Temple is working to counter period poverty for students on campus.

Earlier this year, Jennyfer Ngo saw a TikTok about the importance of period poverty advocacy. The video sparked Ngo’s interest and inspired her to start her own PERIOD chapter at Temple.  

She immediately went to Aleena Abbasi, who Ngo met volunteering for the Health Link Society, where they bonded about their shared passion for community service.   

PERIOD at Temple is a new chapter inspired by the parent organization, PERIOD, a menstrual hygiene advocacy group. The group aims to advance PERIOD’s mission of eradicating period poverty, which involves the challenges some face with limited access to menstrual hygiene products and its stigma. The group plans to spread that mission by hosting product drives and creating resource guides. 

“I was really surprised when I found out that Temple didn’t have one already given that we are such a unique and diverse environment,” Ngo said.  

They applied through Student Activities last spring to introduce the organization. They created e-board positions, wrote a constitution and began planning for the year.  

 “It doesn’t matter if you identify as a female or anything else we really, really just want to be inclusive, and by doing that we hopefully want to provide free period products and both gender-neutral bathrooms,” Ngo said. 

Nearly one in four United States students who menstruate cannot afford period products, according to a May 2021 survey commissioned by PERIOD and Thinx, inc.  

Period poverty is a pervasive issue in the U.S. and disproportionately affects low-income women, Medical News Today reported.  

Kendall Stephens, a senior social work major and the director of community affairs for Temple Student Government, is responsible for seeking out social issues affecting the student body. 

“The level of awareness around period poverty is low because they consider the issue inconsequential,” Stephens said. “It hasn’t been made as a problem everyone should be invested in, framing is an issue.” 

Stephens is also the creator of the Temple Initiative for Menstrual Equity, an initiative not affiliated with the university, that advocates for ending inaccessibility of period products on campus.   

T.I.M.E. and PERIOD hosted a rally at the Bell Tower on Oct. 10 to honor Period Action Day with the goal of uniting the Temple community for menstrual equity. 

“By hosting a rally, PERIOD hopes to have a physical presence in order to celebrate advocacy for menstrual equity and inclusivity and promote education about period poverty,” Abbasi said.  

PERIOD at Temple wants to continue to educate students about menstrual product affordability and collect products for campus bathrooms.  

In addition to collecting menstrual hygiene products and educating students, PERIOD aims to destigmatize the concept of periods by raising awareness on the issue. Period poverty is an issue that affects so many different people but often goes unreported because of its sensitive nature, according to the United Nations.  

In many cultures, menstrual cycles are seen as dirty or shameful and this idea prevents any further conversations regarding the safety, health or comfort of people with periods, Abbasi said. 

“There’s a certain sense of shame associated with having your period and it’s something that people are often told to not talk about even when they have issues with their period,” Abbasi said. “And there’s no platform for it.”  

PERIOD plans to continue advocating for the de-stigmatization of periods, helping raise awareness toward menstrual hygiene in access and collaborating with other organizations like T.I.M.E to reach their goals at Temple and beyond.  

“We recognize the importance of working with the Philly community and we are in the process of reaching out to shelters in the area because we do want to do drives and fundraise for other communities in the region, not just Temple,” Abbasi said.

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