By Isabelle Asuncion
For Women By Women, Period, or FWBW. is a non-profit organization that provides care packages to homeless and low-income menstruating individuals and provides education about not only menstruation but also about sexual health to change the stigma and ultimately fight against period poverty. Before we dive into how this non-profit organization began their journey. Let’s first discuss what exactly is period poverty and why it affects more people than you may realize.
What is period poverty? According to the American Medical Women’s Association, it refers to “the lack of access to menstrual products, sanitation facilities, and adequate education as it affects about 500 million people worldwide.” Due to the Pink Tax, or Tampon Tax, those who experience poverty cannot purchase what they need, making them unable to even go to work or school.
Some, unfortunately, even have to choose their next meal over menstrual products. A national survey of 1000 teens found that menstrual products are expensive in the United States; 1 in 5 struggled to afford period products; and 4 in 5 missed or know someone who missed class time because they did not have access to period products.
Menstruation has been long associated with something uniquely “feminine”, as it is assumed that it only happens to cisgender women’s bodies, which is not the case. Since then, companies would use the terms such as “feminine hygiene products” when referring to tampons, pads, and other menstrual products. This terminology excludes non-binary transgender and gender-non-conforming people who also have menstruation. They experience periods, and not all of them identify as “feminine,” and those who do, don’t always experience menstruation.
There are also more reasons as to why trans women and non-binary people may need period products. Pads and liners may be in need for trans women and non-binary people for topicals for vaginoplasty. People who take estrogen may also experience symptoms such as migraines and pains. They need medication to deal with these systems.
On average, menstruators would typically spend around $20 on menstrual products per cycle which add up to around $18,000 over a lifetime! Pads, tampons, or any basic menstrual products are expensive, pads and tampons are expensive, and numerous shelters are not only overcrowded but don’t have enough resource to provide per cycle.
Menstruators in need, especially those who are experiencing homelessness would create makeshift pads and tampons typical out of restroom toilet paper products that would expose them to bacteria that would lead into yeast infections, urinary tract infections, or even life-threatening TSS or toxic shock syndrome. Using dollar store brands are typically cheaper but not durable enough to be a serious option. Making products free and accessible to all, will prevent problems for those who need them.
The founder of FWBW., Carrington Baker explains why she created the non-profit organization as there is a great need for those who don’t have access to period products.
“I realized the need for period products among menstruators in the United States. I have always seen many non-profit organizations supporting menstruators in underdeveloped countries, but I never knew of organizations supporting menstruators in the states.”
Baker developed an impactful team that consists of individuals from diverse backgrounds, allowing the organization to better understand the menstrual experience in many aspects. They believe that menstrual products should ultimately be both free and accessible to all who menstruate. It is essential and critical to acknowledge the importance of creating an inclusive environment and recognizing that not all women menstruate and those who menstruate are not all women.
Everyone should feel comfortable caring for themselves during their time of the month. FWBW. wants to make a change and push forward education about menstruation and sexual health so there will be a safe space to share one’s experience.
Over the past year, FWBW., through fundraisers, donations, and support from menstrual product companies such as Cora, The Honey Pot Company, Aunt Flow, and Lunette, has created many Moon Pacs. Moon Pacs are menstrual product packages that include: underwear, pads, tampons, disposable heating pads, and wipes; and are distributed to shelters and groups that serve low-income communities throughout New York City.
How can you help? Please consider donating to FWBW. via their donation page found on our website forwomenbywomenperiod.org. They accept monetary donations via Paypal, Cash App, Venmo, and they accept product donations through their Amazon list located on their website under ‘Donate’. If you are a NYC local, they also accept volunteers. Simply fill out the form on the website and get in touch.
For Women By Women, Period will continue to help many menstruators in need as menstruation is a monthly struggle that affects them physically, emotionally, and mentally. It is crucial to bring dignity to menstruators and that is our mission.
Isabelle Asuncion is a Filipino-American writer and content strategist for For Women, By Women Period, a non-profit organization. She grew up in San Jose, California her entire life but decided to pursue her education and professional life as an artists in New York City.