At Equity we believe that everyone should have access to the hygiene products they need. To raise awareness in our local community about period poverty and the ways we can come together to combat it, we've teamed up with Period OKC to host an event and release a collaborative beer called Equity.Period. Period OKC is also celebrating their one year anniversary on February 14th 2022!
Read on to learn more about Period OKC and the amazing work they do in Oklahoma!
Photo by Hokulani Cartwright Photography
Can you give a brief background on the Period OKC organization and how you got started with this work? Period OKC was born during the height of the pandemic, when people were losing jobs and income. Period poverty is a symptom of financial insecurity coupled with the long history of menstrual silence and taboo, so founders Jen Green and Linley Faye Smith felt compelled to act. While the needs of people experiencing homelessness or loss of income are many, providing menstrual products at no cost is one way to help ensure that all members of our community are able to participate in public life. The service aspect of Period OKC began with a call for monetary donations to support a delivery of tampons and wipes to the Homeless Alliance. For people who don't know about period poverty or for those who don't menstruate, what are some of the obstacles facing individuals when it comes to period inequity? Period poverty is a struggle because menstruation is not a choice, but people who are having difficulty providing food for their families will be forced to decide between paying for groceries over menstrual products. Programs designed to assist people living below the poverty line and families do not include benefits for non-food essentials like pads and tampons or diapers. This need along with a cultural taboo that causes embarrassment or shame can prevent people from asking for help. If someone does not have any menstrual supplies they are have to stay home from work or school, or risk bleeding through their clothes in public.
What has the impact of COVID-19 been both on those facing period poverty but also on efforts to combat it? The pandemic has hit low wage workers and people of color particularly hard, which makes period poverty more common. The annual State of the Period study report for 2021 shows that "Almost half of Black and Latinx students feel they are not able to do their best school work because of lack of access to period products, compared to 28% among white students." Efforts to combat period poverty have been more difficult because product drives and events to fundraise for the cause are not possible.
Who in the Oklahoma community do you serve and how? Do you do work across the state or are you primarily focused on the metro area? Period OKC provides no cost menstrual products for any Oklahoman in need. We do this through a combination of giving by request and contacting aid agencies to see if they need menstrual supplies. There is a request form on our website, and we have donated to K-12 public schools, colleges, homeless shelters, food pantries, drug rehabilitation centers, and other aid agencies. Currently, we are only able to deliver products in the OKC metropolitan area by car.
How can those needing assistance find resources through Period OKC? We provide free menstrual products upon request. Period OKC does not provide other services. What is the best way for people to get involved in our local community? Getting involved with menstrual equity can start at your kitchen table, first by talking with your kids, parents, or friends about period poverty. A common response we hear is that lack of menstrual products is something that no one thought about before, so just talking about it can make a big difference. Many teachers and social workers will buy menstrual products out of their own pocket to give to students or clients, because they saw a need. People can also help by donating menstrual products along with soap, shampoo or toothpaste, to local aid drives. Community free fridges are becoming more common, so taking pads or tampons along with food items is also a great way to get products to people.
And finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about this topic or the work that you do?
Period OKC is dedicated to helping all people who menstruate, including trans men, non-binary and intersex people. We don't say feminine hygiene products because we believe that excludes part of the menstruating population. We also think it is important for non-menstruators to be educated about the menstrual cycle and the needs of menstruators. Breaking down the barriers of menstrual stigma requires that all people recognize that having a period is natural, normal, not gross or dirty, and is something we should feel comfortable talking about with each other.
The work Period OKC has been able to do in the past year has been possible only because the residents of our community have given their time and money to support menstruators in need. Partnerships with schools, church groups, student groups, mutual aid organizations, and local businesses have increased our ability to reach more people and to help those in need. Central Oklahoma has a lot of wonderful people that are very busy doing hard work to elevate the voices of people who are not able to advocate for themselves. We are beyond grateful for the support the community has shown for our mission to end period poverty.
HB 1499 was scheduled to be heard on Monday (2/7), the bill introduced by Representative Jessica Garvin would exempt menstrual products from sales tax in Oklahoma. This is big news and if passed will make menstrual products more affordable for everyone.