Students for Planned Parenthood, Flo Code help make feminine products accessible

Stephanie Adeline

Pads and tampons are basic necessities, but costs and stigma around menstruation can limit access to these products.

“It’s so expensive to be a girl,” said Isabella Fanucci, a psychology and speech language pathology sophomore. “Everybody (has times where they) just don’t have any money on them and they just can’t do anything about it.”

Students for Planned Parenthood is hosting a period product drive with Flo Code, an organization focused on ending the stigma around menstruation.

From March 26 to April 6, students can donate products such as pads, tampons and panty liners in several places on campus, such as the Gender and Sexuality Center and in many women’s and gender-neutral restrooms. As of Monday, over 200 products have been collected, meeting half the group’s goal to collect 400 products.

Flo Code collects donations and gives them to those in need by handing them out on the streets and giving to organizations such as schools and homeless shelters, said Flo Code founder Lamanda Ballard. The products collected at UT will help Flo Code with these efforts.

Ballard said the drive is an opportunity for male and female students to have uncomfortable conversations about menstruation.

“Sometimes males don’t realize what’s an issue in our society until someone brings it to their attention,” Ballard said. “I know a lot of males who aren’t being supporters, just because they didn’t realize it’s an issue.”

Sofia Rosales, an English and black studies junior, said she has worked with homeless people through volunteer work with another organization, and was surprised that many of the women have no access to pads and tampons.

“Every single woman that I know of that isn’t in menopause is going to get a period,” Rosales said. “I’m really upset about the lack of accessibility for homeless people or displaced women.”

Rosales said her experiences inspired her to help by collecting feminine products from her friends and family to be donated. However, Rosales said it has been hard to gather donations because many people still consider periods to be embarrassing.

“Even how women talk about their period is like, ‘Oh man, I have my period,’ instead of being joyful that our bodies are able to reproduce,” Rosales said. “When we get our periods a lot of times when we get sensitive, there’s nothing wrong with that. That is actually a sign of strength instead of a sign of weakness.”

Fanucci said she wanted to donate pads and tampons because she can relate to not having access to feminine products on campus during an emergency.

“If you’re around campus, there’s not even great access to those products,” Fanucci said. “There’s only a few places on campus where you can buy them. (It would) be nice to have at least a couple places to buy them … or have locations where they are free because everybody has emergencies.”

Fanucci said she hopes the drive will raise awareness on accessibility issues such as taxation of feminine products and help eliminate the stigma surrounding women’s menstruation.

“Hopefully we can get to a point where we’re not hiding tampons in our sleeves and we can just pull them out of our backpack and walk to the bathroom and it’s not a big deal,” Fanucci said.