Project Red brings period products to UGA

Period Product dispensers were placed in two all-gender UGA restrooms.

“Several months ago, I was only making $600/month and had to choose between eating and menstrual products more than once…UGA providing free menstrual products would ensure the silently impoverished students are more easily able to reach their full academic potential.”

When you think of the tools students need to succeed in school, you might name things like a computer, notebooks, or access to study space. Most people don’t immediately consider access to period products a factor, but according to a survey conducted among UGA students, insufficient access to period products can be detrimental to a student’s education.

This survey, conducted from June-August 2020, was the first step in the formation of Project Red, an initiative to install menstrual product dispensers on UGA’s campus. Started as an offshoot of Period Project at UGA’s advocacy branch, “Project Red” became the branded name for a pilot program that provides free, biodegradable menstrual products in select all-gender UGA restrooms.

To gain a deeper understanding of the menstrual needs at UGA and in the surrounding Athens-Clarke County area, the Project Red team conducted a community needs assessment consisting of ten interviews with community members, distributed two surveys to UGA students, faculty, and staff, and assessed Project Red Instagram analytics.

Many survey respondents reported difficulties in obtaining period products and how these difficulties have affected their education. One student reported,

“I have very inconsistent and heavy periods, so oftentimes I find myself without the proper supplies when I find I need them…it is usually quite difficult to find an affordable product in times of need during or in between classes.”

Other students emphasized needs related to reproductive health that affect their menstrual cycles. For example, another student mentioned health concerns that contributed to elevated costs related to period products,

“…I dealt with quite a few menstrual issues stemming from comorbid [endometriosis] & PCOS – one time bleeding for 80 straight days…I was uninsured…Even cheap alternatives are expensive to students…”

The survey also collected responses related to everyday inconveniences that affect students’ ability to focus on their academic work,

“One time I was in class and started my period…I bled completely through my white leggings that day. My only saving grace to get me through my next classes was some wadded-up toilet paper and a friend’s jacket that I tied around my waist.”

Once the Project Red team gathered this survey data, they developed a report to pitch to UGA’s auxiliary services team to garner support for a pilot program installing period dispensers in two all-gender restrooms with funding from a $4,000 grant provided by the Office of Sustainability.

The team is working with UGA staff to expand and sustain the program, with hopes that it will be absorbed into the budget, so it is no longer reliant on grant money.

Project Red is currently creating a toolkit for other college groups looking to implement a similar program on their campus.

The Project Red team from left to right: Jaaie Varshney, Mahathi Mula, Suvitha Viswanathan, Ashley Boyle, and Maeve Breathnach

Candid Conversations!

Coalition leaders came together on Tuesday, May 4, for the first of a series of “Candid Conversations” about menstruation. This discussion, hosted by the Junior League of Douglas County, provided a forum for participants to talk about their experiences with menstruation and reproductive health across the lifespan. The purpose was to encourage participants to speak comfortably about their experiences with menstruation in an effort to empower people to be more effective advocates for both their personal health and for menstrual equity in general. “I thought this was a unique opportunity to hear women of all ages talk about their experiences with their periods,” Ashley Boyle of Period Project at UGA said. “I heard honest conversations about menopause and reproductive health concerns that aren’t usually talked about openly.” This conversation is a model for other menstrual equity groups to host similar events. If this sounds like something your organization is interested in hosting, please email georgiastomp@gmail.com for materials and more information.

“Are You There, Law? It’s Me, Menstruation”

On Friday, April 9th, Georgia STOMP will participate in Columbia Journal of Gender and Law‘s, “Are You There, Law? It’s Me, Menstruation” –– the first-ever symposium to explore the intersection of menstruation and the law. The Symposium celebrates the 50th anniversary of Judy Blume’s influential book “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” and commemorates 30 years since the Journal‘s founding. If interested, register here!

The Symposium will feature a keynote address by U.S. Congresswoman Grace Meng, a champion for menstrual equity representing New York’s 6th congressional district, and a live conversation with celebrated author, Judy Blume!

Over the course of the two-day virtual conference, panelists from academic and advocacy backgrounds will explore the multifaceted and intersecting themes implicated by this universal issue, including cultural constructions of menstruation, courts and constitutionality, employment and capitalism, dignity for marginalized communities, public policy, and perspectives on change. The full program of events can be found here.

The Journal highlights work by more than forty authors, representing a diverse range of perspectives, both in print and online.  At the request of the law school, Adele Stewart and Claire Cox submitted an essay on Georgia STOMP advocacy which was accepted into the online publication! From those forty essays, a small group of authors was chosen to present their work during a lightening round panel at 12:30 pm on Friday. If you join the event, listen for Claire’s presentation during that panel!

You can learn more about the Symposium here!

If you register, don’t forget submit your question for Judy Blume here!