PERIOD at UGA members pose for a photo. (Courtesy/PERIOD at UGA)

PERIOD at University of Georgia, an organization devoted to making menstrual products accessible at the university and in Athens, continues its work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

PERIOD is a national organization that advocates for universal access to menstrual products and aims to eliminate period poverty and stigma around menstrual health, Suvitha Viswanathan, co-president of PERIOD and a junior biology major said.

“We want members to recognize the power imbalance between UGA and Athens residents and through whatever work you do, trying to level that playing field and just making sure that you’re not the sole beneficiary of that service,” Viswanathan said.

PERIOD’s parent organization, Femme, encouraged PERIOD to continue its tradition of working with community centers and shelters in Athens.

Each month, PERIOD sends out a survey to its partners asking for the number of kits as well as what types of kits are needed (pads, tampons or both). Once it has a headcount, it purchases the products and members have “packing parties” to create the kits, Viswanathan said.

Maeve Breathnach, co-fundraising chair and a sophomore international affairs major, said the packing parties are very different this year. They’re outside, socially distanced and mask mandatory.

Furthermore, while the organization would previously go to stores to purchase the products in bulk, it now orders everything online.

Viswanathan said Athens’ high homeless and poverty rates are significant issues in the city, but the conversation is typically limited to providing shelter, food and water.

Menstrual needs are often not recognized, Breathnach said.

“It’s hard to wrap your head around how essential some products truly are,” said Kelsie Walker, the executive director of Bigger Vision of Athens community shelter, one of PERIOD’s partners. “And as it stands right now, in order to have access to just a basic feminine necessity, you do have to pay quite a large amount and you shouldn’t have to pay for something that is really needed in order to just interact in today’s society.”

The fall semester saw an increased demand for PERIOD’s services. PERIOD received 550 kit requests from their community partners, an increase from the prior maximum requests of 450 to 500, Viswanathan said.

Creating and distributing period kits is not the only project PERIOD undertakes. Breathnach said the organization is also working on an initiative called Project Red that focuses on making menstrual products available in UGA bathrooms. Its efforts are currently directed at making them accessible in gender neutral bathrooms.

Despite their dedication to the organization, Viswanathan and Breathnach agree that they do not want PERIOD to exist in the future as that would indicate the persistence of period poverty and menstrual health stigma.

Breathnach reminisces on words said by last year’s PERIOD president that persuaded her to take an officer position in the club.

“PERIOD is just the bandaid. We are not the solution. We’re addressing immediate needs; we’re not addressing the underlying issue that’s causing period poverty,” Breathnach said.