Out of 132 service clubs at UNC, PERIOD. at UNC-CH found its place last semester by focusing solely on menstrual equality and awareness.
This new club packages pads and tampons to donate to local shelters for low-income and homeless women, and it educates students about menstrual health and equity while they’re at it.
The club is part of more than 150 registered chapters within the national level of PERIOD., founded in 2014 by two high school students.
Sophomore Anwesha Nandi, the president and co-founder of the UNC chapter of the club, said the club brings awareness to issues people don’t typically consider when working to improve the health and welfare of homeless people.
“We’re UNC’s first student organization that is fully dedicated to menstrual equity and menstrual equality – there’s been a lot of organizations around feminism and women’s health, but our focus is really on providing access to free menstrual products to low-income, primarily homeless women," Nandi said. "We also try to raise awareness and educate people about menstruation to reduce a lot of the stigma and that taboo nature of the subject."
PERIOD. at UNC-CH fundraises and holds donation drives for menstrual products on campus and around the community. The products are then organized into bags at packing parties which are given to local shelters and organizations. Nandi said the club packaged 500 tampons and pads at their first packing party in September, and she hopes to package 1,000 products at the event this semester.
Sophomore Kate Queen, the education committee chair, said the club has many events in the works for this semester including benefit nights on Franklin Street, a few packing parties, speaker events during weekly meetings, a comedy show and a trivia night which will include questions related to menstruation and women’s rights during National Women’s History month.
“What really drew me to this group is there’s not a group like it on campus. We’re really the only group with this mission of supporting women’s menstrual equality,” Queen said. “It’s a problem I didn’t really know about, a problem that’s kind of invisible to the public and the matter is it’s a very easy thing to change.”
According to PERIOD., a standard box of 36 tampons costs about seven dollars, and most women use approximately 253 boxes in their lifetime. Queen said PERIOD. at UNC-CH primarily serves homeless women because they are the most likely to be unable to afford these costly but necessary menstrual products.
Sophomore Carolyn Chen, finance committee head, said in addition to the costs of products, the cost of sanitation contributes to menstrual inequity for homeless women. She said she hopes the club will expand to reach more people with their message this semester.
“I think that in Chapel Hill specifically, because of the University, a lot of the issues surrounding the homeless population are kind of overshadowed,” Chen said. “In addition to that, menstruation is not something a person really chooses to go through, and it is really pricey to deal with the costs.”
The club’s next donation drive will take place from Feb. 26 to March 4, and a packing party will take place soon after. Nandi said her main goal for the club is to educate people about menstrual health and empower them to help their local communities in providing menstrual equity.
“It honestly takes so little to make such a big change with this,” Queen said. “It’s just throwing in a 30 cent pad makes a difference for any woman, any person menstruating, and so I think I would love for the club to set that kind of standard for service – that it only takes a little to make a big difference.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.