Chatham students start donation drive for products to fight ‘period poverty’

Posted 3/24/21

For Annika Lowe, the idea to fight local “period poverty” all began with TikTok.

While scrolling through the social media platform in November, Lowe, a junior at the Chatham School of Science …

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Chatham students start donation drive for products to fight ‘period poverty’

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For Annika Lowe, the idea to fight local “period poverty” all began with TikTok.

While scrolling through the social media platform in November, Lowe, a junior at the Chatham School of Science & Engineering, an initiative based out of Chicago caught her eye. The nonprofit “Her Drive” was organizing donation drives across the country to collect and distribute menstruation and general hygiene products to those who can’t afford them.

“It brought out the idea that I had not even considered — that period poverty was such a big struggle,” Lowe told the News + Record. “I sent (the post) to everyone. They’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, yes, we have to do that.’”

Together with three other Chatham high school juniors — two from CSSE and one from Jordan-Matthews — Lowe applied that same month to start one such donation drive in Chatham County. Her Drive’s leadership team interviewed them in December and gave them the green light soon after. Finally, after weeks of planning, Lowe and her friends began the drive on March 14.

“So most Her Drive drives will be just for one city, but we wanted to do the whole county so that we could help as many people as possible, get as many donations,” Lowe said. “We’re also a pretty small county.”

The term “period poverty” refers to inadequate access to menstrual hygiene supplies. According to the Alliance for Period Supplies, one in four women across the country has struggled to afford period supplies in the last year.

Like 30 other states, North Carolina taxes period supplies, and not many governmental welfare programs help people purchase menstrual care items. According to the Alliance for Period Supplies’ 2020 North Carolina fact sheet, one in five girls and women between 12 and 44 lives below the federal poverty line.

“We’re all very privileged, but we tried to put ourselves into other people’s shoes, seeing that they’re already struggling to pay taxes, to pay for food, for water, for shelter, and then on top of that they have to pay for period products every month,” Lowe said. “... It’s such an overlooked issue that we wanted to help combat in any way possible, so we thought that by doing a Her Drive in Chatham County, we can at least help a few people out.”

The drive lasts until April 10 and will collect donations via contactless home pickups, local businesses and county schools. Among other things, people can donate pads, tampons, deodorant, pregnancy tests, socks and gently used bras. They can’t accept any monetary donations, Lowe said. At the end of the drive, half of the donated items will go to the Women’s Center in Raleigh; the other half will go to the West Chatham Food Pantry in Siler City.

To donate via home pickup, people can fill out a Google Form online. The form also has a complete list of accepted donations.

“They can set out their donations on their porch the night or the day before, or like in the morning, and we go and pick it up on Sundays and Wednesdays,” Lowe said, “and so that’s how we’ve gotten all of our donations so far.”

Lowe and her team have also stationed drop-off boxes at schools and businesses around Chatham County — though, she added, most are in Siler City for now. They’ve placed a box at Jordan-Matthews and at CSSE’s high school campus; they’re also working to place one at Northwood.

They’ve stationed several collection boxes at Chatham Wellness & Counseling, Stillpoint Acupuncture and Carolina Dancing Gymnastics, and they’re looking to contact several Pittsboro businesses about stationing several boxes in their stores, as well.

So far, Lowe told the News + Record that they’ve received about eight boxes’ worth of donations loaded with pads, tampons, pregnancy tests and other miscellaneous hygiene products. Most donations came from Siler City via family friends, Nextdoor and other scheduled contactless home pickups.

To collect as many products as they can, Lowe said she and her team have been focusing on spreading the word about the drive — but it’s been a bit harder than they’d anticipated. The national organization, Her Drive, doesn’t allow local organizers to create their own websites or social media accounts to prevent confusion, so Lowe and her team have resorted to using their personal social media accounts.

“I think this program is definitely geared towards people that live in bigger cities,” she said. “I’ve got quite a few posters that I’m going to hang up fairly soon, or fliers. I think like that kind of stuff would work a lot better in bigger cities, but we’re trying our best. We’re gonna make it work.”

Their goal, Lowe said, is to help at least 50 people in the area, and the donations they’ve received so far will at least help quite a few.

“We hope that we will be able to make somebody’s month,” she said, adding, “We understand that this won’t be a huge thing, but as long as we can help one or two people, that’s enough for us.”

Reporter Victoria Johnson can be reached at victoria@chathamnr.com.

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