Photo: YVC of Reading leadership group at Southern Middle School packaging menstrual products for women in shelters as part of their “Girls Supporting Girls. Period.” project.
Middle-school Service Project Advocating for Menstrual Equity Named National Project of the Year
Reading, PA – A Youth Volunteer Corps of Reading service project entitled “Girls Supporting Girls. Period” — a middle school project to advocate for menstrual equity in underserved schools — was named the 2019 Project of the Year across the international Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC) network. YVC has more than 30 affiliates throughout the U.S. and Canada, with over 4,000 projects taking place each year, and only one receives this top honor. The Project of the Year was awarded at the YVC Summit in Kansas City, MO., on Oct. 12.
“Girls Supporting Girls. Period” is an effort by a group of girls from Southern Middle School in Reading to highlight the issue and advocate for menstrual equity in underserved schools. The concept of menstrual equity, or equal access to feminine hygiene products, refers to the notion that access to menstrual products should be a right and not a privilege. It is a big problem in women’s prisons, shelters, and under-served schools and it can become a huge health issue. In the US, it occurs with girls in low income situations — they miss school or are forced to use make-shift products (like socks and paper towels) to manage menstrual health. Currently in the US, some states and cities have already proposed or passed legislation to ensure that menstrual products are readily available in school bathrooms, so that students neither have to miss classes or risk their health because they do not have them on hand. To date, at least fourteen states and local jurisdictions have proposed legislation providing girls in under-served schools with access to menstrual products, free of charge. Pennsylvania is not among them.
Youth volunteers recognized menstrual equity as an issue within Reading and decided to undertake to a multi-stage project to address the issue locally. Their project included changing the bathroom culture and feminine hygiene product access in their school, talking to policymakers to see what policy changes could be made to ensure menstrual equity for girls in other schools, and collecting and packaging pads to give to local women’s shelters and their school nurse for other students. To date, they have packaged several hundred pads which were given to those in need.
“I am so proud of the girls at Southern Middle School who continue to push this issue forward and into the spotlight as advocates for a topic that is difficult to talk about. They are leaders in their school and our community.” said Lindsay Sites, program director for Youth Volunteer Corps of Reading.
VOiCEup Berks, a fund of Berks County Community Foundation and an affiliate of Youth Volunteer Corps, is a local organization dedicated to connecting all sectors of Berks County to volunteer opportunities through service learning. Formed in 2015, VOiCEup is the collaborative effort of a group of experienced volunteers who are committed to the power of service. As an affiliate of Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC), VOiCEup engages youth ages 11-18 in meaningful community service through Youth Volunteer Corps of Reading.