Nobody looks forward to that special time of the month, however, most girls and young women struggle with not just pains but also with the cost of feminine hygiene products.
A project by the Bureau of Women’s Affairs raises the question of menstrual inequities— are our island students struggling to afford sanitary napkins?
End Period Poverty — that is the mission behind Project Sottera. Sottera is the CHamoru term for when a girl or young woman first starts her menstrual cycle.
The project seeks to provide sanitary napkins to public schools through donations from the community.
Jayne Flores, director of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs, started the project after learning how many women on the island are affected by period poverty through a survey she developed with Public Health.
“We sent out 300 surveys, we got around 288 responses, most of them said these products are too expensive and I said what do you use if you don’t have this and the answers that came back were a myriad of napkins, towels, socks, rags things like that so we know there’s a need out there,” Flores said.
More often than not, schools rely on school personnel to dip into their own pockets to provide tampons or sanitary pads so girls can stay in school while on their period.
Rosemary J. Loveridge, Nursing instructor at Guam Community College, said students shouldn’t have to stay home and not come to school just because they’re menstruating.
“Cleanliness is important. You don’t want to use a dirty old rag because it could introduce infection and then you’re even sicker cause you might have to end up in the hospital. So having these things available, they are disposable products so there is an issue with the landfill I suppose, but this is an everyday occurrence for females of menstruating ages,” Loveridge said.
On Wednesday, the Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce held a film screening and fundraiser event at the Guam Community College to benefit Project Sottera. Female and male students from Inarajan Middle School were invited for a screening of the award-winning 2018 documentary Period. End of Sentence.
The short film — which is about global period poverty — was followed by a panel discussion of personal experiences, stigma, and how period poverty affects the island’s women. As a special treat, students were given gift bags with sanitary napkins and tampons. All proceeds from the fundraiser will go towards providing sanitary products for the island’s public schools.
To join Project Sottera and adopt a school or organization to donate to, contact Jayne Flores at [email protected], or call 475-9312.