Seniors Annie Goodman, Kaley Leshem and Nora Fleming have worked together to organize a feminine hygiene products drive to collect tampons, pads and other menstrual care products for the Somerville Homeless Coalition.
The drive, which is sponsored by Kappa Alpha Theta, Alpha Omicron Pi (AOII), Alpha Phi, Chi Omega, Lambda Pi Chi, Vitality, Strong Women Strong Girls and the Women’s Center, will run until April 27 and has collection boxes at campus sorority houses, Hillel, the Mayer Campus Center, the Women’s Center and the Latino Center.
Goodman explained that she initially came up with the idea after reading a Huffington Post article about the challenges faced by homeless women who do not have access to menstrual care products and facilities.
“I thought it would be easier to expand and add some authority to the project if it were associated with actual groups,” she said.
After coming up with the idea, Goodman, a sister of Alpha Phi, said that she first spoke with the Alpha Phi executive board and then reached out to other sororities on campus as well as other student groups working on women’s and health issues. She noted that the drive responds directly to a need in the local community.
“We wanted to maximize our impact in the local community,” Goodman said. “We all recognize that [there are] people in our communities who need help. Homelessness is not an issue that you have to go far to find.”
AOII’s Women’s Center Representative Sarah Lubiner, a sophomore, also emphasized the local emphasis of the drive.
“I think the drive is an easy yet impactful way organizations on campus can make a direct contribution to the Somerville community,” she told the Daily in an email. “A frequent criticism of Tufts organizations is that they are too insular and don’t make an effort to recognize the needs of the community in which Tufts exists. The feminine hygiene products drive allows organizations on campus that focus on female issues to contribute to a female population that may not have access to these resources.”
Goodman explained that the lack of access to menstrual care poses health risks as well as social and emotional burdens to homeless women. She added that this is exacerbated by the fact that menstruation is stigmatized and not openly discussed.
“People just don’t think to donate [feminine hygiene products] because menstruation isn’t something we talk about,” Goodman said.
Furthermore, feminine hygiene products are not covered by food stamps, making them even more difficult to obtain, Fleming explained.
“These products are not covered by food stamps and cost upwards of $70 a year,” she said. “Sanitary products … are one of the most expensive items and one of the most overlooked.”
Leshem added that the Somerville Homeless Coalition was also interested in collecting feminine hygiene products.
“We really wanted to make sure that it was something the shelter we were donating to had a demand for,” she said.
In addition to collecting products, the drive also includes a GoFundMe fundraiser, according to Leshem.
“We wanted to make sure that men … and people of all gender identities didn’t feel left out of the project, so the [fundraiser] was a great way to engage people who might not have tampons lying around but who still really wanted to get involved,” she said.
Leshem and Goodman said that fundraiser aims to raise $1,200 — enough to buy around 170-200 boxes of tampons and pads.
Another goal of the drive is to raise awareness about the issue and de-stigmatize menstruation at Tufts, Leshem said.
“We’ve been posting a lot of articles on our Facebook page,” she said. “We’re just trying to give education and give resources to people who maybe do want to learn more about the issue.”
Fleming noted that the reception to the drive has been very positive, especially from women on- and off-campus.
“All of the organizations we reached out to have been so excited to get on board and have been really supportive,” she said. “We’ve received a lot of donations, and we’re also past the halfway point of what we’re hoping to receive [for the fundraiser].
However, Fleming underscored the difficulty in spreading the word beyond a female audience.
“The monetary donations have been mostly from women,” she said. “It’s definitely important for us to receive support from more people on campus [and] to get all of Tufts involved.”
Leshem emphasized the project as a way to recognize the local community after four years at Tufts.
“It just felt like a really nice way to culminate our time at Tufts and show our appreciation for the Somerville/Medford community … and tap into our different networks,” she added. “It’s amazing as a senior to see how you can really engage different networks of people you’ve met over the past four years … I think the really cool thing about it is that it’s not being run by one club, so it really feels like an inclusive movement.”