The movement to end menstrual inequity and stigma has arrived at Tufts. A new student group called PERIOD at Tufts held its first general interest meeting (GIM) on Oct. 28, joining multiple pre-existing chapters from Boston and hundreds from across the country of the global nonprofit organization PERIOD.
In 2014, then-high school students Nadya Okamoto and Vincent Forand founded the national organization with the goal of increasing access to menstrual products in their hometown of Portland, Ore. It has now grown into much more than just a high school club, with over 600 chapters across the globe on both high school and college campuses.
Yasmeen Meek, president of PERIOD at Tufts, works from experience as the former president of a PERIOD branch at her local high school.
“I started PERIOD when I was in high school in Maryland, because I went to this conference called the Student Diversity Leadership Conference. [Here] I met the sister of the girl who founded [PERIOD],” Meek said. “I was very inspired, because I never really confronted this issue in any way before.”
A 2017 Always Confidence & Puberty Survey found that one in every five girls in the U.S. have missed part of a day or a whole day of school because of their period, consequently impacting the access that anyone menstruating has to their education. Meek, a sophomore, said that PERIOD at Tufts is looking to combat the stigma that can accompany periods.
“I think PERIOD chapters are very focused on what their individual community needs. Our primary focus is going to be local outreach and local shelters and serving those people,” Meek said. “I was hoping that as a club we could also break into three teams: service, education and advocacy … just so we can maximize our talents and strengths and make a really strong presence on our campus and in the community.”
The group’s first service project will be collecting menstrual products for Heading Home, a service provider for families with home insecurity in Boston.
“The drives are going to be week-long drives on campus, so really anyone who is interacting with the Tufts community can drop off supplies,” Meek said. “Our service partner in the community is requesting that we get the products and put them into individual packages.”
Outside of the public in Boston, Meek wants to increase the accessibility of menstrual products for Tufts students as well. She cited goals of making products more available at Health Service and in other public areas.
“In my high school, I got the school to put pads and tampons in all the bathrooms. I think that will be a great project to work on at Tufts,” Meek said.
Meek stated that she wants the club to creatively conduct outreach, mentioning ideas such as administering a “captain” for dormitories that would be in charge of motivating other students to collect menstrual products for their residence hall. Through such initiatives, along with other ideas such as hosting a Red Dress Gala fundraising event, the club hopes to make it easier for students to contribute to the cause.
“A cool thing for the product drive would be, each dorm has a dorm captain, and there could be a box in each dorm. Therefore, [students] wouldn’t have to walk to the [Mayer Campus Center] or the library to donate,” Meek said.
Beyond service, Meek said she wants to make education and advocacy a priority for the group. She mentioned the 2018 Academy Award-winning documentary “Period. End of Sentence.” as a film that the group feels could increase on-campus engagement with the issue.
“‘Period. End of Sentence.’ is a new documentary about menstrual equity in India. It’s really cool. We could set up a movie screening of that for the Tufts community,” Meek said.
The first-ever National Period Day occurred on Oct. 19 in what may represent increasing public awareness of menstrual inequity as a public health issue. PERIOD marked the date by hosting a rally in Boston, in what WGBH stated was one of more than 50 rallies across the country. In light of the national movement’s building momentum, PERIOD at Tufts hopes to bring light to injustices taking place domestically and abroad through the group’s locally-focused work.
“We are going to work a lot with the community and raising period products to serve menstruators in need. Having a club like this on campus will just be a good starter to lots of conversations,” Emily Sinrod, a sophomore and the education chair of PERIOD at Tufts, said.
Planning to pair these conversations with action, Meek mentioned specific policy-related issues the club hopes to work on as well.
“There’s a lot of legislative campaigns that focus on menstrual equity in prisons, where often times people get denied sanitary napkins,” Meek said. “There’s legislative campaigns about luxury tax and sales tax on tampons, there’s a lot of stuff we can do for that.”
At PERIOD at Tufts’ GIM, some students who expressed interest in working with the club mentioned past experience with volunteer work.
“I’ve been looking to get involved with clubs that deal with women and feminism,” Lily Ahmed, a Tufts first-year present at the GIM, said. “I did a tampon drive in high school with my ‘interfem‘ club … I’m really excited to get involved [here at Tufts].”
At the GIM, the group mentioned plans to expand, with leadership opportunities available in the form of open advocacy chair, secretary and treasurer positions. The organizers mentioned that the club will have a wide range of commitment levels and seeks student volunteers to help with their various planned events. If interested in getting involved, students can contact email@example.com.
The leaders stated that they are still searching for new ideas and perspectives on how to end menstrual inequity. They are eager to get started with a menstrual product drive planned within the month.
“My goal is to do [the drive] in a month, because Heading Home has about 420 total menstruators that they would like to serve, and they are really anxious for our support,” said Meek. “People don’t really go and donate menstrual products. They donate clothing or food and don’t really think about those. Which is why I think it would be a really important presence in Medford and Somerville and at Tufts.”