PERIOD.UNCA helps end menstrual stigma on campus

Belle Kozubowski
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UNCA sophomore Caitlin Tricomi came up short while researching for a paper in her medical anthropology class last spring, she wasn’t finding adequate research on menstrual hygiene management of refugee women and girls, she said. It sparked in her a passion for menstrual rights and she knew she had to find a way to get more involved, Tricomi said. 
“I was at this bookstore in Maine, and I picked up this book called ‘Period Power’ by Nadya Okamoto, who’s the founder of PERIOD. the Menstrual Movement, so I started reading that book, and I was like, how can I get more involved?” Tricomi said. “And I saw that I could start a chapter.”
This semester, Tricomi and her co-president Mayden McDaniel, a senior at UNCA, started their chapter of PERIOD. the Menstrual Movement. Although starting the club wasn’t easy, they’re hopeful that it will impact UNCA’s student body, Tricomi said. The PERIOD. chapter at Western Carolina pushed Tricomi to start the UNCA chapter, she said.
“Someone pretty close to us has a chapter so we have a connection,” McDaniel said. “So she reached out to (Western) via their Instagram and started talking about what exactly their chapter does and how they got established.”
The club follows the same guidelines as the larger, national organization and the UNCA chapter has a point of contact at the national level for any questions they might have, Tricomi said. The club acts out those three pillars through various events and projects on campus. Members host educational workshops, period packing parties, and letter writing campaigns to end the pink tax, she said. 
“Basically our mission as a club and an organization is to end period poverty and period stigma through education, service and advocacy,” Tricomi said. “Those are the three pillars of PERIOD. the Menstrual Movement, the organization.”
After reading Okamoto’s book and researching the national organization, Tricomi and McDaniel started working on the three pillars right after they officially became a club this semester, Tricomi said. 
“We just did our first period packing party, so at the party we packed a Ziploc bag with five pads, four tampons, and three panty liners and we are going to be donating those to Room in the Inn, a homeless shelter through Homeward Bound,” Tricomi said. “We’re planning on doing a period packing party once a month, so we’re planning on doing one in November.” 
In order to put on these events, Tricomi and McDaniel research many different ways that they can get funding through things like grants, but it’s been a lengthy process, McDaniel said. 
“Right now we are only working with some funds that we raised on GoFundMe. We put up a GoFundMe and our goal was $500 and we raised $550 overnight, but we’ve spent a good chunk of that on the pads, tampons and pantyliners that we used for our first period packing party,” McDaniel said. “I think our total was like $230 for all of those materials.”
Although funding has posed a learning curve for the co-presidents, they continue to do important work for the campus community, Tricomi said. 
“Right now I’m working with SGA, we’re trying to start a pilot program here to get free emergency menstrual products in all of the bathrooms on campus, so that’s kind of like a side project that I’m working on with SGA and PERIOD.,” Tricomi said. “So right now we’re doing tabling to figure out what kind of menstrual hygiene needs we have on campus so we can address those needs.”
Elizabeth Berkeley, a senior student at UNCA, joined the club at its first meeting, she said. 
“I was actually in a club my freshman year and I can’t even remember what it was called because nothing happened with it. But it was more about sexual health and providing information to students about stuff like that,” Berkeley said. “So no, other than that I really haven’t seen anything that has to do with menstruation or the feminine body in general. So this is the first real organization and it has so much potential and I’m so excited for it.”
PERIOD.UNCA started in August of this year, but Berkeley remains passionate about the work that they’re doing and excited for the future of the club, she said. 
“I would like to see definitely more stuff coming to campus with the students being educated on menstruation and more access for femenine products and stuff like that,” Berkeley said. “We did the packing party, so maybe doing more stuff like that and definitely finding out more about how to get femenine products on campus.”
The first annual PERIOD. Rally took place in downtown Asheville earlier this month. It was hosted by the Western Carolina chapter of PERIOD. and members of the UNCA chapter attended, McDaniel said. 
“Even though we were a small group we still made somewhat of an impact, especially in the work that we hope to do in the future with the Asheville Period Project, making those connections at that rally was really important to our group,” McDaniel said. “ We got to speak our minds and also make some really valuable connections that we can use in the future.”