People of All Ages Organize on National Period Day Demanding an End to ‘Period Poverty’

Organizers gathered in downtown Chicago at Federal Plaza (230 S. Dearborn St.) and across the nation Saturday afternoon for the Period Day Rally.

Rallies were held in all 50 states for National Period Day to bring awareness to the issue of period poverty and to end the tampon tax — a term used for menstrual products which are taxed unlike other basic necessities — which makes period products less accessible to low-income people. 

The event was organized by PERIOD, a non-profit organization dedicated to making period products more affordable and ending the stigma surrounding periods. 

According to PERIOD’s website, 46 percent of low-income women choose between a meal and period products. Additionally, one in four women struggle to afford period products due to a lack of income.

About 120 supporters were present, officials said. Organizers could be heard chanting “a b c d e f g … stand for menstrual equity.” 

Ashley Novoa, a 32-year-old, stay-at-home mom and President of the Chicago Period Project — a regional chapter of PERIOD — told The Phoenix “period poverty” is the lack of affordable menstrual hygiene products. 

There are currently more than 450 registered chapters of PERIOD in the United States and Illinois has anywhere from 10-19 registered chapters across the state, according to the organization’s website. 

Novoa said she started the Chicago Period Project in resistance to the stigma surrounding menstruation. 

“We need to spread awareness about menstruation in general, but specifically period poverty and we can’t do this without destigmatizing periods, without breaking down the taboos and the barriers that are in the way,” Novoa said.

Maria Brenda, a speaker and filmmaker who advocates for mental health who attended the rally, said a lack of affordable products can make things difficult for single parents or single-income family households.

“I’m a single parent of two young adults, being a single parent, with one household income, it gets tough,” Brenda told The Phoenix. “Trying to feed your children and put a roof over their head as well as the basic necessities, that can accumulate and there’s a lot of them, so then having to pay for this as well, and menstrual products get so expensive.”

Abigail Estrada, a 16-year-old high school student, said she attended the rally to try and get rid of the stigma surrounding periods.

“What we are trying to do is raise awareness about period poverty and the importance of destigmatizing periods for all menstruators,” Estrada said.

Bob Pinta said he was at the rally in support of his 13-year-old daughter. He said he has always been open when it comes to talking about menstruation and making sure there are products around for her.

“I don’t understand why it’s embarrassing to other men to have products around, it’s a normal part of life,” Pinta said. “So in my minivan I have a box of pads there for her.”

Novoa also said she thinks the transgender and gender nonconforming community (TGNC) tends to be forgotten when it comes to menstration.

“That’s why we’re trying to do a lot of work not to just give the products that are needed but also bring awareness to menstration in the transgender community,” Novoa said. “Because of the stigma surrounding periods, especially in the trangender community, them opening a tampon or a pad wrapper in a bathroom can put them in a lot of danger.”

At Loyola, there have been several cases of products — available to anyone who menstruates, including TGNC students — being tampered with in men’s and gender neutral bathrooms, The Phoenix reported.

Most recently, students alleged transphobia after a video went viral of somebody appearing to throw away unused free tampons and pads in a men’s bathroom, The Phoenix reported.

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