Students create nonprofit to address 'period poverty' in North Carolina schools

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Tuesday, October 10, 2023
Wake Co. students create nonprofit to address 'period poverty'
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For some women, access to period products is a challenge forcing some girls and women to get creative with their resources.

CARY, N.C. (WTVD) -- For some women access to period products is a challenge -- forcing some girls and women to get creative with their resources.

According to research from a national nonprofit, 2 in 5 women struggle to afford the items they need, and because of that, menstrual equity is a global challenge.

It's also a challenge locally, but two Wake County high school students are doing their part to reduce what's called "period poverty," a lack of access to menstrual products, hygiene facilities, waste management, and education.

"Equity and menstrual poverty were really an issue that wasn't really addressed. It's kind of a big problem," said Farah Rosaleen, a student at Green Hope High School in Cary.

Rosaleen said the problem may be big, but the solution is simple. "It has such a simple fix," she added.

The remedy was a nonprofit created to be the solution to a problem affecting young women across the country. Rosaleen joined forces with her classmate and friend Sarah Pazokian to launch Period Project, NC.

The nonprofit supplies free period products in schools across the state.

"A lot of students might not be thinking about how this is like an economic need and a social, socioeconomically disadvantaged type of problem, but it is," Rosaleen said.

The free products are set up inside the girls' bathroom at school. Pads and panty liners are stocked inside a dispenser that's available to anyone who needs supplies.

ABC11 caught up with the students as they restocked the dispenser at their high school.

"These are free to anyone and everyone. They should grab them whenever they want," the duo pointed out.

The two installed the dispensers at their high school first and expanded to schools in Charlotte and Durham.

"People are reaching out to us because it shows that there's a need in their school that they're able to recognize, which is a really big step,"' said Pazokian, co-founder of Period Project NC.

They were recently welcomed inside their first middle school.

"A lot of girls are getting their period from age 10, 11, and 9 now. When girls have that understanding of what their period is and that it's something normal and it's nothing to be ashamed about, they can now meet their first experience of getting a period with understanding, instead of being panicked about what's happening to me. They can worry about their products. They can worry about how to best take care of their period," Pazokian said.

The dispensers are restocked by 120 student ambassadors at 14 schools statewide. The products: pads and liners are all donated.

But getting the actual dispensers inside the school has a cost. The dispensers range from $13 to $15 each.

"So that's just $200 for the dispensaries alone. And then to have period products for a school for a year that would be about $700. It's pretty costly, but I think it's worth it," Rosaleen said.

In the United States, 1 in 4 teens missed class because of the lack of period products such as tampons or pads. Two in 5 women struggle to buy period products, according to the Alliance for Period Supplies, a national nonprofit.

"The students aren't here. They're missing. And if we're talking about a young lady who's missing on her menstrual cycle, that could be a week of instruction, a week away from their peers, a week away from access to food. They have transportation here. So why not give them those products here?" said Green Hope High School Principal Alison Cleveland.

She gave the students the green light to launch the program at the high school.

"It takes away some of this, the feeling of being embarrassed or a stigma or any of that, just to say, here it is, if you need it, you have it," Cleveland said.

So far, 25 states and Washington, DC., have passed legislation that helps provide free access to period products while in school

"It just levels the playing field for them, knowing that they can go to school no matter what condition they're in or if they have their period or not," said Rosaleen.

For two school years, the North Carolina Department of Instruction provided grant funding to schools through a Feminine Hygiene Products Grant Program.

But Rosaleen and Pazokian are working with state lawmakers to advocate for permanent funding.

"I think it's just recently that people are thinking to make this a school-provided thing rather than something that students have to bring from their own homes and have to worry about because we want female education to be more prioritized," Pazokian said.