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Periods Rock! New student outreach combines philanthropy and policy to combat period poverty

Periods Rock! That's the message that junior Maddie DePaoli and first year grad student Molly Little are working to create through their new student-led outreach program of the same name.

On April 30 and May 2, Periods Rock! will be collecting boxes of unopened feminine care products at tables in Armstrong from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

DePaoli and Little are looking for products including pads, tampons, diva cups and panty liners to donate to women who are struggling to gain access to them due to poverty. Donors will also receive a free raffle ticket for each box donated.

Along with battling poverty, destigmatizing menstruation is crucial for Little and DePaoli.

"Instead of hiding or being embarrassed, just kind of owning it and making it a part of everyday conversation is a really important piece," said Little.

"That's why we are calling it Periods Rock! With an exclamation point," said DePaoli. "Gotta have an exclamation point in the name."

Periods Rock! is a new program as of this semester, driven by Richelle Forbotta, the Coordinator of the Dennis L. Carlson Sexuality Education Studies Center, and DePaoli and Little's passion for meeting the practical needs of the community.

"If you're in poverty, and your decision is food on the table for my child, or get myself a box of tampons, you're going to go with the former," DePaoli said. "But it's still important. It's a need. You can't avoid your period."

DePaoli and Little have already been busy collecting donations and expect to make their first large donation at the end of the month. They are currently in contact with local middle schools, the Hope and Haven Houses in Middletown and Hamilton and an organization called Street Beat in Milwaukee. (Street Beat is an outreach that works with impoverished and homeless teens).

"We try to keep it as local as we can, but we try to think out of the box a little bit too," Little said. "If for some reason we couldn't find a donor here, we could send it to Street Beat."

While Periods Rock! is primarily focused on the immediate needs of providing hygiene products, the vision goes beyond that. Feminine hygiene products are taxed at rates that are much higher than taxes on other items, an obstacle that can't be overcome without policy changes.

"We've got folks like Maddie and I who are drumming up donations and we've got other undergraduate students who are working on policy," said Little. " We're trying to take a multi-faceted approach to it. It's great to donate tampons and do those things but we're also thinking about how to make the future better, trying to change some of these policies that have created period poverty in the first place."

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Periods Rock! is taking on a massive social issue, one that requires diverse talents and resources to overcome. While donations are the most immediate need, there is a long term need for multi-disciplinary advocacy.

"I think it'd be a good experience for anyone from political science to marketing and business majors to just understand what philanthropy looks like from your discipline," Little said. "If you are a woman or know a woman, this is the place."