Women's Watch: Sometimes best ideas found in unexpected places

Posted 4/19/21

Demetra Presley was inspired to start her nonprofit organization, Go With The Flow, after seeing a “Now This” video on Facebook about a teacher making “period packs” for her …

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Women's Watch: Sometimes best ideas found in unexpected places

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Demetra Presley was inspired to start her nonprofit organization, Go With The Flow, after seeing a “Now This” video on Facebook about a teacher making “period packs” for her students.

As Ms. Presley explains, “Some schools here do not provide any type of product for a student. If you are attending one of those schools and you don’t have your own supplies or access to someone with supplies, what do you do?”

While seldom talked about, period poverty is a challenge facing many people. Tampons, maxi-pads, and other menstrual hygiene products are expensive. The Huffington Post estimates the average person will spend more than $18,000 on their period in their lifetime. Considering the combined price of a box of tampons and maxi-pads is more than the hourly minimum wage, it’s easy to see why some families might struggle to provide these necessities.

That’s where Go With The Flow comes in. Since its creation in 2017, the organization has provided schools in Phoenix and Tucson with over 20,000 period packs.

In an effort to reduce stigma, tampons are a central decorating theme for the Go With The Flow office. Paper bags chocked full of supplies are stamped with cartoon tampons. Fabric privacy pouches come in every shade of the rainbow. There’s a light fixture made of tampons along with tampon-printed curtains.

A giant maxi-pad sits on a shelf, decorated with glitter and featuring the signatures (including this author’s) of those committed to ending period poverty in Arizona. It’s a warm, welcoming place where menstruation is treated as a normal part of life.

Growing the organization is a big focus for Ms. Presley.

“In the short time we’ve been around, I’ve also become aware of other areas that are lacking that are related to this, so now my focus isn’t on just providing the need, it’s expanded into — what are we doing about education? What are we doing to really challenge the stigma? What are we doing about giving menstruators in general but women in particular empowerment over their body? What can we do to address some of the other factors that play into the accessibility issue itself? I want to show people this is more than a pack of supplies.”

Ms. Presley said the best part of her work is how willing people are to get involved and help once they know that this is an issue in Arizona.

“This topic is very stigmatized. It’s still very taboo. A lot of people don’t feel comfortable talking about periods. They definitely don’t feel comfortable talking about not having access to supplies to get them through their period. So, this issue of people not having access to pads and tampons or students missing school because of it is really something that’s still unknown. It’s still an occurrence that folks aren’t familiar with.”

There are many ways to support Go With The Flow’s work. Visit gowiththeflowaz.org to learn how you can donate menstrual hygiene products, host or attend a period pack party, coordinate a donation drive, spread community awareness, and more. Every quarter Go With The Flow hosts a discussion called “That Time of the Month” to “take the conversation out of the bathroom and talk about menstruation — the good, the bad, the things we weren’t taught and the questions we never got answered.”

Women’s Watch is a cooperative writing effort of the local chapters of the American Association of University Women, the League of Women Voters and the National Organization for Women. This piece was submitted by Laura Terech.

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