May 28th is Menstrual Hygiene Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of good menstrual hygiene on a global level. In celebration, I’d like to share how The Hoboken Girl X The Flow Initiative is working toward transforming access to period products and establishing menstrual equity which will improve menstrual hygiene throughout Hudson County and beyond. Read on to learn more about menstrual inequality and how you can help on Menstrual Hygiene Day from Eiko Laboria – founder/Executive Director of The Flow Initiative non-profit and United State of Women Ambassador for Gender Equality, New Jersey.
First, we begin where it all began…from October 10th, 2020 – October 20th, 2020, during the height of a global pandemic, something extraordinary happened which elevated, amplified, and changed the voices of girls, women, and menstruating people suffering in silence, stigma, and shame from period poverty throughout Hudson County. Period poverty is the inability to afford period products, which leads to health, emotional and economic instability. The Hoboken Girl X The Flow Initiative collaborated on a period product drive with modest expectations that we would obtain enough products to help a handful of local organizations that were assisting those most in need.
The Hoboken Girl worked with local businesses including Hoboken Fire Department (local engines # 2 and # 6), JaneDo Hoboken, Little City Books, Brooke and Bel, Two01 Hoboken, Mint Market (Hoboken and Jersey City), and Word Bookstore (Jersey City) as drop off locations for period products.
The response from everyday citizens and the sheer volume of donations afforded The Flow Initiative to prepare and donate over 20,000 period products since November 2020: that is 3,300 products per month from the goodwill of the residents of Hoboken and Jersey City. We have been able to donate to schools, homeless shelters, libraries, community centers, domestic abuse homes, youth programs, food pantries, soup kitchens, artist hubs, and many more spaces where period poverty is prevalent.
Along this journey, we learned that donating period products is simply not enough. To end period poverty and establish true menstrual equity regardless of a person’s socio-economic background, we must break barriers and create innovative ways to ensure access for all. A lack of menstrual equity (access to period products) does not care about the size of your bank account, as I often say, the richest woman in the world has at one point in her life gone to the bathroom, gotten her period, and did not have access to a period product. She likely had to use toilet paper as a makeshift pad, just like the homeless woman living out of a cardboard box. This was one of the reasons why Jennifer Tripucka, Joelle and Jordan Hernandez, Sabrina Browne, and I came together to brainstorm ways that we can develop points of access.
Recently, I was invited to attend a roundtable with the Office of Rep. Grace Meng. Rep. Meng is a U.S. Congresswoman, D-NY that has introduced the Menstrual Equity for All Act, the Good Samaritan Menstrual Products Act, and has beaten the drum loud enough that the Biden Administration established a Menstrual Equity Task Force. During the roundtable, I learned that the Menstrual Equity for All Act was reintroduced for the third time and, if passed, would provide unprecedented access to period products in places such as schools, homeless shelters, places of incarceration, and federal buildings.
That said, it would be up to states and local municipalities to further develop access points to period products within their communities. The Hoboken Girl X The Flow Initiative is ahead of the curve and working toward creating those particularly important points of access for all which will not only normalize periods but will also raise awareness on the importance of access to exist in all communities throughout Hudson County and New Jersey. We are excited to roll this out in the future and look forward to seeing the transformative impact it will have.
On this Menstrual Hygiene Day, I encourage you to support ideas that will end an antiquated way of life that views a natural biological function as something that should be shrouded in silence, stigma, and shame. I encourage you to envision a society where access to period products, menstrual equity, and menstrual hygiene is as commonplace as getting a cup of coffee from Starbucks. Ponder the impact a community that respects the bodies of girls, women and all menstruating people will have on all of us.
If you would like to help, follow the Flow Initiative on Instagram at @theflowinitiative and on Facebook at @theflowinitiativefoundation to stay in the know. You may be helping a student attend and stay in school, a mother report to work and sustain her family, or a person with the ability to menstruate with dignity. Period.