In 2019, Planned Parenthood’s Education Team in Syracuse partnered with the Girl Up Club at Nottingham High School. We were fortunate enough to meet some of the members during our sexual health sessions in their health classes. Their club is full of socially conscious and philanthropic teenagers who are part of the larger Girl Up Organization that empowers girls around the world. Check out their website for more information: girlup.org.
Nottingham Girl Up had previously made efforts to end period poverty* in their local high school where they were noticing that their classmates were missing school because they didn’t have adequate menstrual supplies. Members of the club worked to coordinate donation drives and then used those supplies to fill containers with pads, tampons and inspirational messages, which they then placed in the bathrooms throughout their school.
Club members knew this was a problem impacting menstruators around the world but were unfortunately seeing the issue right in their public school. When the club learned that there was a 2018 New York State Mandate that required all Public Schools that serve grades 6-12 to provide free menstrual supplies (pads and tampons) in all female bathrooms, they jumped into action. While the mandate existed, the directive and the follow through were not seen in the Syracuse City School District. Members of the Girl Up Club acted swiftly to bring this mandate to the attention of their principal who then made the initiative to start supplying menstrual products in the female bathrooms (which unfortunately left non-binary and trans students out).
Since the lack of menstrual supplies in their high school was finally being addressed, Girl Up and Planned Parenthood worked together to turn their attention to their city and those who might be in need throughout Syracuse. It was then that the idea to host a “Period Party” was born. Girl Up and Planned Parenthood hosted this Period Party on Giving Tuesday to kick off a two-week donation drive and all the proceeds would be donated to Refugee and Immigrant Self-Empowerment Agency (RISE). This party and donation drive were incredibly successful and members of the community were able to benefit immediately!
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Girl Up members knew their classmates would still be without supplies so on the last day of in person instruction, Girl Up members worked to pack pencil cases full of menstrual supplies so their classmates could leave school with supplies they might not have access to at home. As the pandemic continued, Girl Up members jumped into action again by asking their school administrators to make pads and tampons available to people at the same time free lunches were being distributed. Amazing!
Again, their attention turned to the community and with the help of Planned Parenthood, we kicked off another Menstrual Supply Drive, but this one was virtual! We made an online wish list where those who were interested could purchase items and send them directly to RISE. Our contact at RISE let us know that they received and continue to receive an outpouring of support! The people who visit their agency can access free menstrual supplies at any time and they fly off the shelves which lets us know our work is never done. Girl Up and Planned Parenthood relaunched our Virtual Menstrual Supply Drive
** in July and cannot thank everyone enough for their continued support! Without Girl Up’s tenacity and support, many members of our community would be less equipped to deal with the unavoidable: periods.
* According to the American Medical Women’s Association, “period poverty refers to the inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and educations, including but not limited to sanitary products, washing facilities, and waste management.”