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PERIOD @ UCF: Striving for Menstrual Advocacy

The PERIOD chapter at UCF is an empowered organization that aims to advocate for menstrual equity through different charitable services, not just for local communities, but global ones as well. Not only do they focus on helping the underserved through volunteering, but they also advocate for period policy changes, such as the tax on feminine products, collectively called the Tampon Tax. It was so inspiring to sit down with the Secretary, Pinak Raodeo, to talk about all of the support PERIOD has given to the community, as well as their amazing members who make all of that possible. In case there is any confusion as to the similarity in names, PERIOD @ UCF is a chapter of a broader organization also known as PERIOD that is fighting for the menstrual movement to end period poverty and the stigma that comes along with it. 

To have a better feel for what this RSO is aiming to do, their mission is to end poverty and period stigma by making menstrual hygiene products accessible to menstruators in need and empowering our global community to embrace menstrual health.

What is PERIOD, and what does your chapter do?

Pinak: “PERIOD is an organization at UCF focused on menstrual equity and advocacy; our three pillars are service, education and advocacy. So, through service, we try to help our community by providing menstrual products to menstruating people in need, especially homeless women who have to use rags, cardboard or other unsanitary methods to keep their periods controlled. As far as education, we have a lot of period talks and myth-buster sessions during our meetings where we talk about common misconceptions about menstruation. I feel, personally, that it is very overlooked in society and not well understood, such as that stigma of a woman being on her period — as if she’s emotionally unstable even though we’re fine — so there does need to be education about this. The last thing is advocacy, which is basically just making sure things like the Tampon Tax get banned in every state — so far 33 states still have the Tampon Tax, but that number went down from 35 very recently.”

Tell me some more about your Period Pack events.

Pinak: “Our Period Pack events are called Packing Parties — so, before our Packing Parties, we have fundraisers and period drives where members can donate period products to our organization, or money, if they feel uncomfortable donating actual products. With a lot of our male members, there’s still the stigma — they don’t want to go out to Walmart and buy a bunch of pads and stuff, so we allow monetary donations as well. We take these products and put them in paper bags. We do about 9 tampons and 12 pads per cycle for every person, so it’ll be one paper bag for a 28-day menstrual cycle because it covers the individual for the whole month. The last Packing Party we had, we packed about 200 period packs which covers 200 menstrual cycles — it was amazing! We donated all of these to Orlando Union Rescue Mission. We’re going to have more Packing Parties in the spring but we’re just trying to build up our member base right now so that we can have more donations to supply these events.”

What other opportunities and events do you offer to your members? Are there any you’re particularly excited for?

Pinak: “I’m excited to have another Packing Party, but in the spring I think we’re going to be doing more volunteering, too. Orlando Union Rescue Mission is a homeless shelter for women and children, so in addition to having our Packing Parties count for service hours, we’ll have events at that location as well, and that will be about 3–5 hours per event, which I really hope will increase our membership. I know that a lot of pre-graduate school students are looking for volunteering hours so we would like to be able to offer that to them.”

Why do you believe it is important to have organizations like PERIOD on campus?

Pinak: “As I said before, I think that the need for menstrual products and equity, especially on campus, is largely ignored. In the Student Union they do have free pads and tampons — in the bathrooms, I believe — but it is still something that needs to be made more aware of. Recently, I was talking to someone and he didn’t even know what PERIOD the organization was — he thought that we just sit around and complain about our periods, but that’s not what it is, at all. So I think that with having this educational aspect of the organization, we can help inform our community about periods and why we shouldn’t stigmatize and be more open. Think about how many times that you, as a menstruating individual, have gone to the bathroom hiding your pads or tampons in your pocket, shirt or boot simply to conceal the fact that you were on your period from everyone else. That shouldn’t be something that needs to be done because periods are a natural process.”

Why is there such a stigma against periods when they’re a normal part of human life?

Pinak: “We actually had a myth-busters meeting a couple of months ago that discussed different myths and misconceptions like this — so back in the ancient times, it was seen as unclean because they didn’t have the proper sanitary products. Especially in India, in villages, it is common for girls to be isolated when they are on their periods because they are seen as unclean or dirty. I think that in some older book that I read, it said that men used to think that women had less blood flow to their brains because they were on their period, which is completely untrue. I think that the stigma arises from outdated information that isn’t valid anymore because we have science supporting otherwise and menstrual products that keep individuals sanitary on their period. So I think that the stigma can be reduced and now is the time to do so because we have all of these resources on our side.”

What are your plans for PERIOD in the future? Where would you like to see it end up?

Pinak: “I would like to have a bigger member base, upwards of a hundred members. I would also love to have our name out there — this year we weren’t able to go to club showcases, otherwise I’m sure we would have had more membership. I also hope that we have more volunteering events and the like, because I know that’s what tends to draw the crowd here at UCF. I think that having a big period talk on a stage, like at [Addition Financial Arena] or the Pegasus ballroom would be nice — anything that brings the name out like we did this at UCF […] we do want to have an impact on our community while we’re here.”

Until I spoke with Pinak, I hadn’t realized just how important it was to have an organization like PERIOD on UCF’s campus. Oftentimes we forget to put ourselves in the shoes of those who might not have the same access to things like we do, so the fact that they have these great events like their Packing Parties to support menstruating individuals in need was eye-opening. If you want more information on PERIOD @ UCF, or would like to provide supplies, follow their social media at @period.ucf on Instagram!

Fakhri is a junior majoring in Biomedical Sciences, with a minor in Health Sciences, and aspires to be an OB/GYN. She loves volunteering, her family, and hedgehogs!
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