ColumnsThe Seeker

Period Project NC and Advocating for Accessibility of Menstrual Products

Defining menstrual equity as part of the women's rights movement

Katie Grant looks over her shoulder and smiles
Katie Grant, The Seeker. (Photo by Moving Mountains Studios)

As spring slowly unfolds in Charlotte, my wellness routine has evolved for the better. Each Tuesday evening, I leave my Uptown office, eager to embrace the spaciousness of the Mint Museum while on my yoga mat. When the clock strikes 5 p.m., I stroll across several blocks framed by skyscrapers — a short walk that allows me to mentally quiet the noise from the workday.

For a full hour, the atrium within the Mint transforms into a sanctuary of mindfulness, where members and nonmembers can partake in rejuvenating yoga sessions. Already a member? Then these classes are a complimentary treat, courtesy of the code MINT21, while nonmembers can join for a fee of $15.

However, due to the unpredictable seasonal weather, some outdoor plans have been canceled or postponed. Recently, on a drizzly afternoon with outdoor social plans suddenly altered, some friends and I were rerouted to Girl Tribe Co. in SouthPark. 

While wandering the aisles of pastel, screen-printed tees and sweatshirts, I noticed a space on the left-hand side dedicated to a variety of (equally as pastel) menstrual products. I wandered over and learned the products were part of a Period Nirvana x Girl Tribe Pop-Up collaboration. 

There, I chatted with Period Nirvana founder and menstrual product expert Kim Rosas, who told me that she launched the initiative in 2020 with the goal of making period management comfortable and convenient.

Period Nirvana, with its dual focus on education and retail, seeks to empower individuals in their menstrual journeys. The company aims to redefine the narrative surrounding menstruation through informative resources, a personalized matchmaking quiz, and curated product offerings. 

At the heart of this endeavor lies a commitment to social inclusivity, ethical stewardship and environmental sustainability.

Having never been to a period pop-up, I was captivated by the spirit of advocacy and sat down to some reading about it later that evening.

There from my couch, I came across Period Project NC (PPNC). Founded by high school students Farah “Rose” Rosaleen and Sarah Pazokian in 2021, PPNC endeavors to combat menstrual poverty within schools, foster a culture of inclusivity and advocate for women’s rights across North Carolina. 

A woman retrieves menstrual products from a container on the wall put there by Period Project NC
Period Project NC places containers holding menstrual products in school settings across the state. (Photo courtesy of Period Project NC)

With more than 120 ambassadors spanning 15+ schools, PPNC is paving the way toward menstrual equity and educational empowerment. The organization is highly relevant, having reached 10,000 students, some of whom live here in Mecklenburg County, as East Mecklenburg High School is one of the schools the organization currently serves.

Before then, the Black Period(t) Project launched in Greensboro in 2019 and expanded into a fully operational incorporated entity as of August 2020, organizing community outreach initiatives, leading Period Action Day rally walks and hosting petition parties to end the “tampon tax.” That group appears inactive since 2022, however.

According to Women’s Voices for the Earth, the most commonly recognized definition of menstrual equity is the “affordability, accessibility and safety of menstrual products.”

Yet, amidst these commendable efforts previously mentioned, a glaring injustice persists. In North Carolina, menstrual products remain subject to the burden of taxation, deemed “non-essential” goods, and taxed at a rate of 4.75%. 

This discriminatory practice, often referred to as the “tampon tax,” is a harsh reminder of the systemic inequalities that persist within our society.

Read More: A Guide to Sexual and Reproductive Health Resources for NC Teens

In the 2023 documentary Periodical, activists explore the science, politics and cultural aspects of menstruation. It aims to break down the stigma surrounding periods and celebrate them as a normal part of women’s health. 

The documentary reminds us that menstrual products are a necessity for most women, for much of their lives — essential for attending school, working, etc. It also reminds us that every one of us is here because a woman somewhere missed their period. 

The documentary highlights legal aspects of the issue, such as how the tampon tax violates the equal protection clause in both state and federal constitutions. This means it’s not just unfair or inequitable but unconstitutional and therefore illegal.

However, there is hope on the horizon. In North Carolina, SB 741, aptly titled “Tax Relief on Essentials for Working Families,” seeks to exempt diapers and feminine hygiene products from taxation, acknowledging their essential nature. 

While this legislation represents a step in the right direction, excluding “grooming and hygiene products” underscores the ongoing need for advocacy and reform.

As I reflect on the intersections of advocacy and community engagement, I anticipate other impactful and highly relevant events this spring, like the upcoming Community Impact Film Series: Mental Health hosted by the Independent Picture House. 

Scheduled for Saturday, May 11, this event promises to foster dialogue, raise awareness, and inspire action to support mental health initiatives within our community.

In the city’s cultural tapestry, each thread represents a unique opportunity for advocacy, empowerment, and social change. And as we each navigate these complexities, my hope is that by sharing this information, together we can continue to champion causes that resonate with us individually and uplift the community as a whole. Period.

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