In Our Own Voice Fellows Amber Wynne and Kalaya Sibley spoke to D.C. Editor Micha Green about period poverty and the work they’re doing to combat it on AFRO Live. (Screenshot)

By Savanna Samuels
Special to the AFRO

In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda (NBWRJA) fellows discussed “period poverty” and the efforts to support those with a menstrual cycle on AFRO Live. Reproductive justice fellows Kalaya Sibley and Amber Wynne, who attended Dillard and Hampton Universities, respectively, have dedicated their efforts toward the support and benefit of people with menstrual cycles at Historically Black Colleges/Universities (HBCUs) by focusing on period poverty and how to combat it.

 “A lot of times women and girls, we have been experiencing things that prevent us from being able to basically operate whilst having our periods and cycles,” Reproductive Justice Fellow Sibley told the AFRO.

“Period poverty is whenever you have an impediment that holds your ability to thrive as a menstruating individual, so that could be not having access to menstrual products, not having affordable menstrual products, not having access to clean water to clean your menstrual cup. Whatever it is, whatever that impediment is, needs to be eradicated and that’s some of the work that we’re doing at In Our Own Voice, and some of the work I’m doing at Hampton,” Wynne passionately explained.

A February 2021 George Mason University study, found that 1 in 10 college students experienced chronic period poverty and 14% of college students ran into challenges within the last year.  Moreover, Black and Brown menstruating bodies experience further issues surrounding accessibility to menstruation products.  Nineteen percent of Black and 24.5% of Brown menstruating bodies said they experienced period poverty in the last year.

As Fellows, the HBCU students focus on advocating for reproductive rights, health and justice, Black women going through adversity and ongoing policy change.  Sibley and Wynne execute their duties as Fellows with on-campus events, such as partnering with the Black-owned business The Honey Pot Co. for a free giveaway of feminine products to their students.  

“Currently on our campus, we’re in the works of implementing an emergency contraceptive vending machine. So it’ll have pads, it’ll have tampons, it’ll have emergency contraceptives for people,” said Sibley, who was also prepping for a special giveaway with Honey Pot products on her campus the day of the interview.

“Most recently with In Our Own Voice, a lot of the work that I’m doing is tailored around reproductive justice, because I think everybody knows about reproductive health and reproductive rights, but understanding that reproductive justice is its own little mini world, and the importance of period poverty within that space,” Wynne told the AFRO.  “When we’re talking about access to menstrual products, a lot of the time, that conversation is centered around cis, White women.”

At Hampton, Wynne helped pass legislation making menstruation products free and accessible to students. “Last semester me and a friend, we passed legislation at Hampton to get free menstrual products for all students at Hampton. The bill passed unanimously within our SGA Senate and it’s really cool to see that we will be having a period pantry, this upcoming fall in 2021,” Wynn explained.  

The Hampton student discussed one of the most recent efforts on campus: The Period Project.  The Period Project’s objective is to institute period pantries in every dorm and academic building on campus and a gender-neutral location.  

“The goal is to help spread to other HBCU campuses,” said Wynne. “Because, once again, when we’re talking about period poverty and we’re talking about these issues, Black women, Black menstruating bodies are never at the table,” Wynne told the AFRO.

One of the next steps in fighting period poverty is finding a way to include men into the movement.  The Fellows have made it a point in their efforts at their campus to make period poverty a conversation for everyone, that no one should ignore. 

“Period poverty often gets sent on the backburner, but we need to bring everything to the forefront because until we eradicate all the oppressions that Black bodies are having, we’re not going to be free- even if that one last piece is period poverty itself,” Wynne said emphatically.