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Founder of Red Equity, Abbie McAdams, advocates for period poverty

In the fall of 2020, University of Denver (DU) freshman Abbie McAdams and 15-year-old Samantha Glover of Reno, Nevada founded Red Equity. Red Equity is a non-profit that supports people want to learn more about period poverty. Red Equity is motivated to  reduce the stigma around menstruation.

“One in five teens in the U.S. have struggled with not being able to afford period products. Four in five teens have missed class or know students who have because they did not have access to period products,” McAdams said, referencing a study by Thinx and PERIOD. 

61% of people menstruating have worn a tampon or pad for more than four hours because they did not have enough access to period products. This increases the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, which is a life-threatening bacterial infection caused by keeping period products in for too long.


Hand holding tampons
Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

In Reno, the main goal is to distribute period packages around the community. Glover achieves this by urging her state legislature to require that Nevada schools provide free period products. They hold community events to encourage people to volunteer and  donate, assemble, and distribute period packages. 

There is currently a bill in the Nevada senate that would require all schools in the state to provide free period products. Denver Public Schools (DPS) will require free period products for all restrooms next year thanks to pressure from period advocacy nonprofits such as Period Kits and Red Equity, DPS student Caitlin Soch, the Denver school board director, Tay Anderson.

“This fall, [Glover] wrote the bill for Nevada. As I had known from past experience, it is a lengthy process. But we had contacts with some great house representatives who were able to help edit the bill and send it to the right committees,” McAdams said.

In Denver, McAdams focuses on advocacy and ending the stigma around periods. McAdams connects with period advocacy groups in the area to speak on menstrual equity, host volunteer events that assemble period packages, and inform the unhoused community on this issue. 


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“There are near to no articles or studies about period poverty. It is one of the most under-researched issues, which is shocking. The lifetime cost for an average menstruator is over $1,700 when calculating the average amount and length of periods,” McAdams said. 

 Despite the overwhelming start of freshman year at DU in a virtual environment, McAdams has stayed persistent in her goal of putting an end to period poverty. 

“I spend around 10-20 hours on this a week. It has been a lot getting [Red Equity] up and going, but I love it,” McAdams said.

Glover came up with the idea through a high school research project, then connected to McAdams. The college student has experience in how to start a nonprofit and write legislation due to her previous work with mental health advocacy. 

Red Equity has many long-term goals such as improving sex education programs in schools to include comprehensive discussions of menstruation and period products, as well as  increasing period product donations across the nation.

“Something I never realized was how much toxic and unhealthy chemicals were in a lot of tampons. That is one of our long term goals of Red Equity,” McAdams said. “Something we want to get done in our next two years is form a curriculum that will inform students on their menstrual cycle and what is actually safe. We hope to pass the bill in Nevada and implement that in Colorado and across the country, so menstrual equity gets on the school board agenda.”

Red Equity supports Period Kits, a nonprofit in Colorado that distributes menstrual product kits to the community during their events for period packaging. The two advocacy groups collaborated for a period product drive on March 6.

They collected and distributed menstrual products for those experiencing period poverty in Denver. The drive was completely contactless and coincided with Glover’s event in Reno, Nevada. The two locations were competing to see who could donate the most amount of products. 

Red Equity also has a strong relationship with Happy Tampers, a group on DU’s campus that collects and donates tampons to homeless shelters in the Denver area. The group also provides period products in campus restrooms. 


Tampons
Unsplash

“We also aim to educate the communities we impact on greening your periods and how much waste comes from period products,” McAdams said. “A long term goal is to educate unhoused populations and give them a menstrual cup rather than the one-month kits they currently use, which consist of tampons and pads. One menstrual cup will last you 10-20 years, and that is much easier than going to these communities once a month.”

Students at DU can support by donating to the cause through Venmo at @RedEquity. All of these donations will go straight towards building period kits and ending the stigma around menstrual equity.

Students can also get started by building period package projects. Red Equity has a step-by-step guide on how to build and distribute a kit and reach out to the community. You can contact Glover and McAdams directly to discuss how to overcome the fiscal burdens of donating and ensure you are staying COVID-19 safe. 

Join McAdams and Glover in their efforts to combat period poverty in Colorado and Nevada, and support a local nonprofit founded by a DU student.

I am a junior at The University of Denver. I am double majoring in international studies and journalism with a minor in marketing. A few of my favorite activities are cooking, painting, listening to music, spending time with friends and swimming in the lakes in Minnesota. I have always had a love for writing!
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