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Go With the Flow: Lack of feminine products should never be a hurdle to attending school

Go with the Flow Packing Party
ASU students at a packing party event.

One evening, Demetra Presley came across a Facebook post — a video of a teacher making “period packs” for female students who didn’t have access to such supplies at home.

Presley — who works as a federal probation officer in Phoenix — remembers having a moment of self-realization. She had never given much thought to the fact that many school-age girls cannot afford pads or tampons, or what that would mean.

“I grew up really privileged, where I never had to worry about these things,” says Presley, noting she’s long been an advocate of women’s rights and women’s healthcare. “This is one of those issues that impacts students being able to attend school. [It] impacts people’s mental and emotional health.”

Presley started talking to friends, family and coworkers about the problem, and grew even more frustrated by what she was learning. While many schools receive a small budget for menstrual products, they often can’t meet the needs of students for an entire year, she says.

“Some of the schools here don’t even provide period products,” says Presley. “Your best-case scenario is to locate a friend, or if you’re fortunate enough [to have one you can approach about it], your teacher.”

Presley also learned some young women end up creating pads with socks, newspapers or toilet paper out of necessity, or they use expired products, which can expose them to health risks such as toxic shock syndrome. A survey by the period products brand Always found nearly one in five girls in the United States have either left school early or missed school entirely because they did not have access to pads or tampons.

Go with the Flow Executive Director Demetra Presley drops off boxes of period packs for the Phoenix Union High School District.

In January 2018, Presley started Go with the Flow, a nonprofit that delivers menstruation products to Title I and other schools — elementary (since girls are getting their periods as young as age 8) all the way to community colleges — where these products are needed. So far, Go With the Flow has distributed more than 13,000 period packs to schools from Peoria to Tucson.

Presley knows talking about periods is still taboo, which she tried to address with the nonprofit’s name. “I wanted Go with the Flow to be something that was light enough so that people wouldn’t feel intimidated. There is still a stigma that surrounds the issue, so it was important for me to make it fun and positive, so people wouldn’t feel intimidated or uncomfortable.”

On that point, Presley has her work cut out for her. When the Arizona Legislature addressed a bill about a need for more pads and tampons in jails last year, male legislators complained about even having to discuss the subject.

“One of the representatives commented on how he would have never allowed the bill to be brought up if he knew it was going to be a discussion about periods,” Presley says.

Other bills — dubbed tampon tax legislation — that would make tampons, sanitary napkins and menstrual cups tax exempt have yet to pass in Arizona. “People have tried passing a bill to remove the sales tax, because one of the barriers to people having access to these

the price,” Presley explains.

Go With the Flow is funded through donation drives and partnerships with other nonprofits, plus help from companies including Kotex. Last spring, U by Kotex donated six pallets of pads to Go With the Flow through the National Alliance for Period Supplies.

Ultimately, in addition to making sure young women have access to period supplies, Presley wants to help reduce the stigma young women feel about the biological fact of periods.

“My hope is that we are fostering an environment or a society where young girls and women don’t feel any shame about this,” she explains. “When we become more comfortable, we will be in a space where we can have open dialogue, realize the impact that it has, and start implementing policy and education.”

To get involved, Presley accepts donations and volunteers for making and transporting period packs. You can also request period packs at a specific school at gowiththeflowaz.org




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