Sticking it to a stigma

Special to the Sun. Graphic courtesy of Annabelle Jin via PERIOD.org.

There’s a stigma when it comes to talking about periods. Often discussed in hushed tones – if at all – the topic’s considered a taboo one for some. Two Moorestown High School students are working to change that and break down the stigmas and misconceptions about periods with PERIOD at Moorestown, which is their chapter of PERIOD.org. 

Annabelle Jin, a rising junior at MHS, said she first learned about PERIOD.org via her sister. She explained the organization’s founder, Nadya Okamoto, struggled with homelessness as a teenager. Throughout that time, she became acutely aware of the limited access homeless women have to period products.

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Today, PERIOD.org is the largest youth-run nonprofit in women’s health. In the nation, there are more than 500 PERIOD chapters. Jin said hearing Okamato’s story made her want to start her own chapter of the organization.

Jin, along with her fellow chapter leader and MHS senior Chai Kim, started their chapter last December. They’re not affiliated with the school in any way, but they have recruited about a dozen friends from MHS to join their efforts.

The group regularly collects period products to donate to homeless and women’s shelters. They said the PERIOD movement recognizes there are individuals of intersecting genders who menstruate, and for that reason, they use the term “period products” as opposed to feminine products.

Their packing parties have resulted in hundreds of pads and tampons being donated to the Women Against Abuse Shelter in Philadelphia, the Anna Sample House and the Covenant House of New Jersey.  They package each bag with enough products to last a woman through her entire cycle. Jin said these places are often both grateful and surprised by their donations. 

“Some are a little bit surprised because not that many people think to donate period products,” Jin said. “It’s just not something you realize can be a burden for people who can’t afford them.”

The girls have run workshops among their group to educate young girls about what to expect when they have their period. They’re currently trying to plan a November workshop at the Moorestown Library.

Kim said they’re targeting girls between the ages of 10 and 15 who are just starting their period and who may not know what to expect. She said some young girls may be afraid to ask their friends or parents questions.

“We just want to create a safe environment for them to answer any questions and inform them about how to be safe and clean during one cycle,” Kim said.

In addition to their local collections and workshops, the women are involved in the planning of the New Jersey National Period Day Rally in Princeton on Saturday, Oct. 19. The rally is a part of a campaign calling for freely accessible period products to be provided in schools, shelters and prisons. The organizers are also calling for an end to the “tampon tax,” which still exists in 35 states. PERIOD chapters in all 50 states will host a rally on National Period Day. 

“We think this is an incredibly important issue because when you provide period products in schools that means the stigma is getting removed because people are seeing period products are normal; it’s normal to have your period,” Jin said.

Anyone can show up to the rally, which will take place in Hinds Plaza in Princeton at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19. To RSVP, visit https://m.facebook.com/events/344733619813019.

To learn more about PERIOD.org visit https://www.period.org. Those interested in contacting PERIOD at Moorestown, can do so via email at period.moorestown@gmail.com

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