The War Against Period Poverty

Photo by Giving Hope & Help
Photo by Giving Hope & Help

Let's talk about that time of the month.

Insert eye roll here.

For a lot of us as American women, a period is just an inevitable annoyance that comes around every month. Then, of course, there are those months when a visit from Aunt Flo is a miraculous blessing of epic proportions.

I think about the time when my mother first taught me about the menstrual cycle and it truly tickles me.

I was lying on my back on the kitchen counter as she washed my hair. I was 10 years old. I remember her laughing at my dramatic response to the grossest thing I had ever heard of in my life. At the same time, there was a part of me that was excited about this right of passage into womanhood.

I actually predicted the day my period would start: November 27, 1997. (Yes, I still remember!) It was Thanksgiving at my grandma's house and I was so excited, I ran out of the bathroom and told the entire family.

Lord, have mercy.

A couple of years ago, I began to prepare my own daughter for her period. When she started on January 4 this year, I cried like a baby.

While these moments cultivated fond memories for me, my mother, and my daughter, for hundreds of girls around the world it's a different story.

According to the American Medical Women's Association (AMWA), period poverty "refers to the inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and educations, including but not limited to sanitary products, washing facilities, and waste management."

Jessica McClellan, founder and president of Giving Hope & Help
Jessica McClellan, founder and president of Giving Hope & Help

I sat down with Jessica McClellan, founder and president of Giving Hope & Help, a non-profit organization founded in 2013 in Kansas City that works towards putting an end to period poverty on a local and global level.

KF: What inspired you to start Giving Hope & Help?

JM: I always had a very heavy cycle. When I was a teenager, I was sexually assaulted and I was in an emotionally abusive relationship as an adult. After losing a dear friend to domestic violence, I launched Giving Hope & Help with the purpose of providing survivors of domestic violence with the least donated items of dignity: sanitary napkins and tampons. Right away, we collected over 5,000 feminine products and supported two local shelters.

KF: I didn't think about how domestic violence could play a role in period poverty.