Students advocate for accessible menstrual care

From left to right: Elena Thomson, Luna Plaza, and Sofia Del Mar Gomez Mahecha help pack menstrual care packages. Photo Credit: Lex Calderon
From left to right: Elena Thomson, Luna Plaza, and Sofia Del Mar Gomez Mahecha help pack menstrual care packages. Photo Credit: Lex Calderon
From left to right: Elena Thomson, Luna Plaza, and Sofia Del Mar Gomez Mahecha help pack menstrual care packages. Photo Credit: Lex Calderon

Women’s History Month celebrates women throughout the month of March, but one campus organization works year-round to promote women’s health.

PERIOD at UM seeks to raise awareness, destigmatize and put an end to period poverty, which describes the poor accessibility and affordability of menstrual products and education for menstrual hygiene.

The club’s main events include period packing parties, where volunteers assemble menstrual care packages for local women’s shelters, homeless shelters and LGBTQ+ centers.

PERIOD at UM is the University’s chapter of the Period Movement, which was founded in 2014 by two high school students in Portland, Oregon. Since then, the movement has expanded to schools nationwide, with the UM chapter starting in 2020.

“I think PERIOD made me realize how big of a problem [period poverty] is, once you actually dive deeper into it and you interact with the people that are going through it and you’re hearing these stories,” president of PERIOD UMiami and senior health science major Lex Calderon said.

The club currently consists of around 20 active members and an executive board that meets every week to plan their events. PERIOD’s events focus on the movement’s three pillars: service, education and advocacy.

“For us, it’s important that we also have an education component,” Calderon said. “We teach our peers why we’re doing this, why it’s important to us and just highlight why it should be important to them.”

Period kits include 6 pads, two panty liners and one or two feminine wipes. The bags also come with uplifting notes written by volunteers written to help the community feel loved when they receive the kits.

“We have so many shelters and so many homeless [people] here in the Miami-Dade community that need menstrual supplies,” Calderon said. “It’s more than just a period. It’s their hygiene. It’s their health that’s also been affected by not having access to clean menstrual products.”

PERIOD often collaborates with other campus organizations to host these period packing parties. Club members come together to volunteer their time and learn about the significance of period poverty.

“We kind of intertwine our education components with the period packing things,” Calderon said. “So when someone asks for a collaboration, we say ‘yes, we’re able to do a collaboration but we also want at least 15 minutes before to speak on what period poverty is.’”

Calderon joined PERIOD as a freshman and served as secretary during her junior year. She credits PERIOD for a lot of the growth she has had as a female leader.

“For me as a leader, [I’ve been] able to come forth and create a beautiful, wonderful, strong team of females,” Calderon said. “It’s amazing to see the impact that they are able to do and see the passion that they have for it.”

Sophomore Luna Plaza is a gender studies and gender and sexuality studies major. She also serves as the outreach coordinator and sees PERIOD as a platform to connect with and learn about different organizations in the community.

Plaza is currently working to start a period pantry with local reproductive justice organizers at the Little Haiti Cultural Center.

“I am a youth activist and community organizer,” Plaza said. “I am thankful for PERIOD at UM, as our organization has helped me network with many community groups and organizations in need of period products.”

Calderon and her majority female leadership team work to provide empowerment and support to individuals in need. Women’s History Month is a time when Calderon reflects on being a role model for women today.

“Women tend to get looked down [on], or maybe overlooked in society,” Calderon said. “I think this month is the time that we can really highlight the success of women in multiple areas and the contributions that they have made to society.”

PERIOD’s next packing party will be held in the Shalala Iron Arrow Room on March 28 at 5 p.m. Anyone is welcome to volunteer.

Be sure to follow PERIOD @period.umiami for more updates on future events.