The Free Period Project
Turning excess into positive change
(donating hospitals' excess period products to homeless shelters)
Every woman--including those who are homeless, imprisoned, and of low income--should have access to the basic necessity that are period products.
photo from http://bananadust.co.uk/should-period-products-be-free/
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)
1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."
I started this project because I'm fighting for equality. Women deserve to feel dignified, and the taboo surrounding periods must be dismantled. Women don't choose to have periods, therefore period products are a basic necessity that every menstruating individual should have access to. According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, if a person's basic physiological needs are not being met, they can't even begin to think about self-improvement. For homeless women, this means that they cannot even begin to think about how to better their own situations. For a woman to have to bleed out on the streets is embarrassing, and just one item on a long list of things to worry about. For many homeless women, getting your period means sacrificing meals in order to stay sanitary and feel dignified. Because periods are so taboo, people don't talk about this problem, and are mostly unaware it exists.
2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
I am trying to solve the problem of access to period products. Period products are still being taxed in most states, meaning it is extremely difficult for homeless women to purchase the products they need. Many homeless women are forced to use unsanitary methods, such as rags or toilet paper, because they can't afford pads or tampons--or, they are forced to bleed into what is usually their only set of clothing.
3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
I am donating hospitals' excess pads to homeless shelters. At two of my local hospitals, maternity pads are distributed to new mothers. However, when a 14-pack of pads is only partially used, the remaining pads are thrown away, though they are individually wrapped and perfectly sanitary. I set up an initiative at Queen's and Kapiolani Hospitals in Honolulu, Hawaii, to collect these unused maternity pads, and every month or so, I pick up these donations and bring them to River of Life Mission, which is an organization that provides meals, clothing, and showers to Hawaii's homeless. Often times, many of the nurses and doctors at the hospital add their own donations to the box, too. This solution is completely cost-free, environmentally friendly, and effective. Since the start of my project, over 4,000 pads have been donated, among donations of clothing and soap as well.
4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.
When the word spread about my project at the hospital, nurses and doctors began donating items on their own. Along with the hospitals' pads, I will often find a pair of shoes, some clothing, soap, or even canned food inside my donation box. It is a truly amazing feeling to see the butterfly effect up-close -- that one good action can send ripples into a community, and that people genuinely care and want to help when given the opportunity.
When I partnered with River of Life Mission to donate period products and other donations, I was told that donations of pads and tampons are so low, that employees often have to use their own personal money to purchase pads and tampons for these homeless women. After my project started, I've been told that the organization hasn't had to do this since.
As the word has spreads about my project, it brings more awareness to the issue.
5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?
This is an issue that has been overlooked for years. Periods are not a new thing, and neither is the issue of homelessness, which happens to be a huge problem in Hawaii, where I live. I have never seen an organization or project that tackles the issue of access to period products in my state, so I can't compare very well to other programs or solutions. My solution is cost-effective and eco-friendly because it uses what would otherwise be thrown away. I believe every women, and not just those who are homeless, should have access to free period products.
6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
So far, over 4,000 pads (among baby diapers, infant formula, adult diapers, underwear, clothing, etc.) have been donated to River of Life Mission, but the need is still there and will always be there. Although I do not distribute the pads myself, I know that employees and volunteers of River of Life Mission no longer need to purchase pads or tampons with their own personal money.
The core "team" of this project consists of myself, my mother, and the director of nurses at Queen's Hospital. However, the project would not be possible without the nurses at both Queen's and Kapiolani Hospitals, who are the ones who put the pads in the donation box, and make their own personal donations on occasion. These nurses are part of the team, too. The employees and volunteers who distribute the pads are also part of the team.
7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?
Thinking about the next level for this project makes me so excited. I would absolutely love to see my initiative implemented at hospitals across the country--even across the world. I want to spread the word about this issue because every single menstruating individual has the right to the necessity that is pads and tampons.
Period products are just as essential as toilet paper--both things are items used for natural biological processes that do not happen by choice. Therefore, I want to see all public restrooms provide period products for free, just the way they provide toilet paper for free.
I want to be sure that women in prison have access to pads and tampons, as well. Again, periods are a natural process that needs to be cared for.
8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?
I think a website would be a great place to start to spread the word about my project and track its progress. I think that with funding, I could travel to different hospitals to try to implement my project in these places. With funding, I would also like to purchase official donation boxes. Perhaps if the project really takes off, I could hire people to deliver the pads. Maybe this employment option could be an initiative in itself to provide employment opportunities for homeless women to get back on their feet and turn their lives around. I want this project to be all about supporting women, not because they are better than men (they're not. we're all equal) but because they have not been supported historically.
9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?
10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.
I've engaged my mother into my project. She helps me to pick up and drop off donations. I've engaged the head of nurses at Queen's with my project--she has helped me spread the word at Queen's hospital. I've spread the word on my own, and received donations from my friends and classmates.
I think that partnering with other projects that focus on women, in any way, would be wonderful. Whether that project focuses on homeless women, period products, employing women, women of color--I think collaboration of any kind would be awesome. Questions to address with this collaboration: How can we change the way society thinks about women? How can we create equality among all genders and all races? What are the experiences of women of color or women belonging to the LGBTQ+ community? How can we lift the taboo on periods?
Also, projects that focus on health care would be great to collaborate with. Questions to address with this collaboration: How can we make hospitals more efficient? Hospitals are full of people whose jobs are literally to help people! How can we utilize the altruism at hospitals to make a change outside the physical hospital?
How did you hear about this challenge?