This Nonprofit Is Working to Rectify Period Poverty and Menstrual Inequity

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Period poverty and menstrual equity are often thought of as issues and topics that don’t need to be discussed in the U.S. But, more than one-third (38%) of low-income women report missing work, school, or similar events due to lack of access to period supplies, according to a 2021 study.

The COVID-19 pandemic and rising inflation and income inequality among those living in North America have only increased inequity regarding the availability of menstrual pads and other supplies. 

In 2018, The Kwek Society was created. Kwe’k (pronounced “Queck”) means “women” in the Potawatomi language. From the onset, the organization’s founder, Eva Marie Carney, said she wanted to ensure she supported menstruators through dignity and greater access.

The Kwek Society provides menstrual supplies to residents of Indian Country, including Navajo Country and elsewhere, as well as Indigenous students and community members living in rural and urban parts of North America. The organization has provided more than 940,000 pieces of period supplies to menstruators. Period supplies donated include menstrual pads, tampons, liners, underwear, educational materials, and moon time bags (cotton envelopes sewn by supporters) filled with supplies. It focuses its support on schools and community-based organizations serving young people.

“I came to learn that Indian Country, right here in North America, experiences significant barriers to access to menstrual pads and other supplies. It’s not some faraway issue,” said Carney, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. ”And it’s not just an Indian Country issue – wherever a good portion of a school’s students qualify for free or reduced lunch programs, that’s a community with a significant risk of period poverty.”

The Kwek Society is currently accepting donations of funds and supplies to restock schools when menstruators return to the classroom in the late summer and early fall. 

“With the pandemic subsiding somewhat, I hope women and other supporters can set up collection boxes in their workplaces, gyms, pool, favorite bars and restaurants, and other locations to collect menstrual pads and other supplies that will then be donated through the Kwek Society,” Carney said. “The boxes will help us meet greater demand and raise awareness in local communities around the issue of period poverty and menstrual equity.”

People can learn more about getting involved by visiting kweksociety.org. The allied organization, Alliance for Period Supplies, also has a short video and toolkit about organizing a menstrual pads drive.  

Takeaway: Period poverty is often considered an issue for another country and in another context, but it is happening here in North America. Your involvement can help students stay in school and maintain their dignity during their periods. 

Tags: Volunteering, income inequality

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Written By

Kristi Eaton

Kristi Eaton is a freelance journalist and communications consultant. See Full Bio

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