The check in desk at the Ultimate Health WIC Clinic in Westwego, which partners with JLNO to distribute diapers and sanitary products.
Every woman has been there. She is about to cheer for the big game, go into class, head to the store, give a presentation or stand up to clap at her child’s play…And she realizes there’s an emergency — she has her period right now and has no supplies on hand. It is embarrassing, and it is enough to drive any woman crazy!
Imagine, though, that this is not just an instant emergency, but a monthly one that can last up to a week. Imagine the stress that comes with not knowing if you can afford a basic necessity that helps you care for yourself or be a contributing member of your family.
“One in five low-income women report missing work, school or similar events due to lack of access to period supplies,” Elizabeth Janke reported from information she has reviewed as JLNO’s Community Council Director. This statistic on the subject is being publicized now more than ever in the media, reducing the stigma attached to talking about menstruation.
JLNO President Alice Glenn says across our nation, major media publications are educating people on the barriers faced by women and girls unable to afford feminine products. “There has been a lot of media coverage locally and nationally,” she says, specifically mentioning the Los Angeles Times’ coverage of this issue. Education is only part of finding a solution, though.
The importance of de-stigmatizing the historically taboo subject of women’s periods is just the beginning. What is needed — beyond discussion and awareness — is action.
Fortunately for New Orleans residents, JLNO’s Diaper Bank is positioned to leverage its network and resources and implement critical next steps. “JLNO’s Diaper Bank is part of a national network — the National Diaper Bank Network (NBDN),” says Elizabeth. “The NDBN approached the Junior League of New Orleans and asked us to participate in its pilot program for distributing period products to young women in our community.”
Through a program called “Alliance for Period Supplies” (APS), JLNO is contributing locally to APS’s mission of “help[ing] ensure that individuals in need have access to essential period products required to participate fully in daily life.” Partnership with the APS was a natural next step for JLNO and the Diaper Bank. As Alice explains, “Our mission at the League is to advance the wellbeing of women and families. This program is a natural extension of that.”
Elizabeth also sees the APS model as a perfect tie-in to JLNO and the Diaper Bank’s mission of women supporting women. “Just like women can’t work if babies can’t be in diapers at daycare, women can’t work if they don’t have the supplies they need on a monthly basis,” she says.
To distribute these products into the community, JLNO has partnered with Ultimate Health Inc., an organization which offers medical services to low-income families with children ages five and under. JLNO’s Diaper Bank currently provides diapers to the organization and is looking forward to expanding this partnership through feminine supplies.
David St. Etienne, Ultimate Health Inc.’s President, spoke about the health correlation between providing diapers and period products. David pointed out that children who are not given frequent diaper changes may develop different types of infections. David added that medical studies show the same thing applies to feminine products, which — if not changed frequently throughout the day — can lead to a variety of medical problems. “If women are able to take care of themselves better and reduce infections, then it provides a better environment for the mother and the child,” says David.
Period products that are delivered to Ultimate Health Inc. will be available to all of the menstruating women in the 1,500 families they currently serve. While this effort is still in its pilot phase, the impact could be extraordinary for the New Orleans community. As Alice says, “I’m excited to see how the pilot works! Anything we can do to help young women and girls is an exciting opportunity.”
How to Help
JLNO receives donations from APS and NDBN; however, more is needed to serve the women and girls in our community. Just as individuals and organizations may donate diapers to the Diaper Bank, they may also donate feminine products. Here are a few ways the community can help:
Donate Sanitary Supplies (pads and/or liners only). Drop off to JLNO Headquarters during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, 8:30am to 5:30pm.
Host a Period Supplies drive. Contact JLNO Headquarters at (504) 891-5845 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Share Information. Use social media or other digital platforms to share facts about sanitary product need and raise our community’s awareness.