Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona campaigns against ‘period poverty’

The Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona is celebrating its third annual “Love. Period.” Campaign, which works with local organizations throughout February to end period poverty. Participating locations are hosting donation drives for menstrual supplies, with some even offering discounts and raffles as a bonus.

“Period Poverty is essentially the lack of access to menstrual products and sanitation facilities and it also covers a lack of education of menstruation and the menstrual cycle,” said DBSA marketing coordinator Riley Mentel.

According to the nonprofit, one in four U.S. women struggle to afford period supplies each year. In addition, one in five low-income women have reported missing work, school or other priorities due to a lack of period supplies. While known for providing diapers and incontinence supplies, DBSA also provides menstrual products, with more than 200,000 products donated every year.

“The pandemic ramped things up for us,” said DBSA CEO Dr. Shannon Roberts. “We’ve seen more requests for product and support now than prior to the pandemic. And that's primarily because people who weren’t in need are now in need.”

Arizona is one of many states that tax menstrual products as a luxury good, whereas products such as toilet paper, condoms and over-the-counter drugs are considered necessities and are not taxed. The tax, as well as the general pricing, continues to bar many in need of these products.

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“People don’t ask to have a menstrual cycle, it's something that you’re born with,” Dr. Roberts said. “You shouldn’t have to suffer financially because you can’t provide for those products. It's not a luxury, it's a necessity.”

This year, sororities from the University of Arizona and five local Tucson businesses have volunteered to host period supply drives: MAST Jewelry, Sam’s Place, Casa Kira, The Bra Spa, and Eastland Alley Design Co. All throughout February sorority members and customers are encouraged to bring donations to the participating organizations, and some have even planned events that coincide with the campaign.

“It's a nice opportunity to start conversations about what this tax is and how it might impact women around Arizona,” said Kira Geddes, owner of Casa Kira.

On Feb. 12, Casa Kira encouraged period product and cash donations with a Valentine’s Day open house. Contributors were given 50% off any pair of Casa Kira earrings as well as entered into a raffle to win a basket full of local art.

“This is my second time doing it, I did it last year as well, and I just felt like it could be a really great awareness building and donation opportunity,” Geddes said.

In addition to in-person drives, the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona and various businesses will be offering virtual drives where cash donations can be made directly to the organization.

While February is used to highlight period poverty, DBSA accepts donations year-round and the fight continues to persist.

“A lot of people come in and are embarrassed to ask for support, and we try to erase the shame and stigma for needing a resource or needing assistance,” Dr. Roberts said. “There's nothing dignified about soiling your clothes, and we want people to know it’s okay to need these resources and help them live a life of dignity.”

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