Help End Period Poverty

Last updated: September 26, 2022, at 2:04 p.m. PT

Originally published: September 26, 2022, at 2:03 p.m. PT


by Jayma Erker, Y Youth Development Instructor 

I know that, in this day and age, there are many opinions about the effects of social media on our society. I'm here to tell you a story. A story about the effect social media had on me and my journey to provide free period products in restrooms.   

My name is Jayma Erker. I'm currently trying out the college experience. I spent my first year of college exploring different fields of study. Why? Because instead of having a 14-day free trial, like most service providers, my university only has an "as long as you pay" trial. So, I pay. And I keep coming back. Whenever I have free time, I watch TV while scrolling through social media. It was during one of these sessions that a post popped up on my feed. It described how a person had gone into a bathroom and found a basket of free period products. I found the idea intriguing, did some research about it, and discovered the term "period poverty." That was when I tried to learn what it was all about and discovered my passion for this topic.   

This discovery came as I was approaching my first year of college. As I began to picture life as a student, I made a list of achievable goals. One was to explore the topic of period poverty. Ultimately, I became more determined to support this cause. I formulated a plan which clarified my purpose and goals.   

I decided that I wanted to introduce a standard in Washington of menstrual products being treated like toilet paper. When you go into a restroom, you expect there to be toilet paper. The same expectation should be held for menstrual products. Through my continued research, I discovered there are many people in the U.S. who can't afford menstrual products, resulting in higher absences from school and work. Many menstruators are also left using tampons and pads for longer than recommended, causing serious medical conditions. They might even have to use rags or socks, which can result in urological infections.

After coming up with a plan, I reached out to an associate at the YMCA who helped me partner with Y Branch Executive Trish Villanueva and the Y's AVP of Equity and Justice, Indira Bahner, to get a program started. They helped me push my ideas further than I could've done with any New Year's resolution, and because of this, I am so grateful for their help. We are currently working on partnering with other companies who support our goal of increasing access to free period products. As we continue searching for companies, we are also organizing drop-off locations where people in the community can donate period products to those most affected by period poverty. Getting people in need access to period products is one approach to decreasing the number of people affected by period poverty. I am also working on a program aimed at destigmatizing the topic of period poverty. Through education and conversation, we change how people talk or don't talk about periods.   

Where to Donate:

Help end period poverty by donating period products, e.g. boxes of tampons and sanitary napkins, at the Matt Griffin and Northshore Y.