• Catherine Zhang

The Period Collective's Big Impact

uterUS intern Catherine Zhang interviewed Ida Melbye, Executive Director of the Period Collective. The Period Collective is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization, committed to supplying period products to homeless and low-income individuals in the greater Chicago area.

They aim to fill a void, as period products are not frequently being donated and organizations they work with do not usually have a budget for supplying these items. Lack of period products is an issue of dignity and health, and one that is not often talked about as there is still a lot of stigma around this topic.

The Period Collective hopes to make a difference and create a bit of comfort in the daily lives of under-resourced individuals in the greater Chicago area. Following is their online conversation:

Partnership to Deliver Products

1. Could you give us a little introduction about what your organization does and who your target audience is?

The Period Collective supplies period products to homeless and low-income individuals in the greater Chicago area. We distribute products through 42 partner organizations such as homeless shelters, transitional housing facilities, after school clubs, employment networks, school districts, social services organizations etc. Some of these partnership include distributing product at back to school events, coat drives etc, and recently as we have experienced an increased demand due to COVID and social unrest, we have supplied product to a lot out of outreach events such as food and mask distribution, many on the south and west sides of Chicago where many individuals live in food deserts and poor neighborhoods.

Making a Real Impact

2. What was the motivation behind the starting of your non-profit organization? Did someone or an experience propel you to act?

I had been fortunate enough to always have access to the product that I needed, but learned from a friend of mine that many individuals in our community struggle to afford these products. For me and so many of the women I talk to, this issue really strikes a chord as something that is unacceptable. The more I learned about how lack of access affects women’s health, dignity and ability to fully participate in society, the more I realized that I wanted to try to help individuals in this situation.

3. What is the most unforgettable experience you’ve had/ person you’ve met while working for your cause?

Waking into one of our partner’s buildings and having a mom of two young children yelling “tampons!” when she saw us. Seeing the relief in people’s eyes when they realize they won’t have to worry about where their product will be coming from is always very impactful.

4. Why do you believe that period poverty is an important matter for people to be educating themselves on ?

Lacking access to this very basic need is something that carries a lot of shame for people in this situation. Not being able to provide something so basic for yourself is very demoralizing. In addition, it severely affects people’s ability to participate in society. When you can’t go to school, work, or a job interview because you are worried about bleeding through your clothes, a lot of opportunities are off the table. In addition comes health consequences of using products for longer than they are intended, and lack of access to reasonable sanitation sources. One in four women in the US have struggled to afford period products in the past year. With COVID presenting a lot of financial hardship for people across the country, the situation is getting worse. It’s important that people are aware of this issue so we can get access to those that need it.

Reusable Products Help Lighten the Load

5. Why do you think the impact of reusable products from uterUS will have on your cause, clientele, etc.

I think it will be a huge relief for underprivileged individuals to have access to reusable products from uterUs! Period products are expensive and many of the individuals that receive products from us regularly have to make hard decisions on how they spend their money. Choosing between dinner for their family or period products is not a situations that anyone should be in. For them to know that they have product to use and not have to worry about where it will come from month after month, will be an enormous weight off their shoulders.

As an added bonus, The Period Collective will be able to help more individuals!

Learn More about Period Poverty

6. What would you recommend for people to do, to learn more about period poverty?

Jennifer Weiss-Wolf wrote a wonderful book called “Periods Gone Public” and is a great person to follow on social media. The Oscar winning short movie “Period. End of Sentence.” is great for learning about period poverty in the global south. Alliance for Period Supplies is another solid resource for period poverty in the US.

7. Any last words you’d like to add?

We are thrilled to work with uterUs to provide reusable products to our clients! Not only will this benefit those who struggle with period poverty, it is also gentler on our environment. Thank you for all you are doing for people with periods!

To donate uterUS products to The Period Collective, visit our site at: https://www.uterus.life/product-page/the-period-collective-1

About the Author

Catherine Zhang attended college in Jackson, MS, where she saw the urgency and need for equitable access to healthcare in the country. There, not only did she start an initiative which provided free health screenings for underprivileged communities and hispanic migrant communities, she has also fought to improve sexual health through screening and access to health resources. With uterUS, she is researching health policies in different states and collaborating with non-profit organizations to improve access of people to period products. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in public health at the University of Pennsylvania.

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