Periods are inevitable, but for girls in low-income communities, periods can be nearly unbearable. With school funding as low as it is for things like paper and desks, money going towards feminine products for students in schools is nonexistent. Gone are the days of cheap tampons and pads available for a quarter in every girls’ bathroom, and in are the days of low-income students staying home from school during their periods to avoid possible leaks and embarrassment.
According to “America’s Very Real Menstrual Crisis,” an article published by Time magazine, “Feminine products are a $2 billion business industry in the United States.” The price of hygiene products are steep, but the price women pay when they are unable to afford hygienic means of controlling their periods are steeper. Women who use rags, socks, and tissues instead of pricey store-bought tampons are at higher risk for infection and even select forms of cancer.
The stigma behind periods undoubtedly contribute to the lack of support for feminine hygiene in schools, and women’s rights activists such as Meghan Markle have been vocal in the dangers of menstrual equity, or the way in which socioeconomic factors play a part in a girl’s ability to access safe and hygienic forms of period products.
When Phoenix woman Demetra Presley found herself in the familiar Facebook black hole one night, she came across a video that would change her life.
“I’m prone to sleepless nights and there was one night I was up and I had come across a video of the teacher who was making the packs [of pads] for her students,” Presley said. “One, I was struck by how she was doing that, and two, it really got me thinking and questioning whether or not that was an issue that was occurring in schools.”
To Presley’s disbelief, the menstrual equity gap was real, and even more shocking, something that students across Arizona knew all too well.
“I started having conversations with different people, with friends, with parents, with school staff, just to kind of get an idea of whether or not this was something that was actually happening, and what was being done to address it,” Presley said. “What I discovered in talking to them was that menstrual hygiene products are not something that are readily being provided to students.”
Presley, a member of the East Valley Women’s Rights group on Facebook, presented her solution to the lack of access to feminine hygiene products at the group’s next meeting, and thus, Go With the Flow was born.
“I heard about it [Go With the Flow] late last year, when I was at a East Valley Women’s Rights group meeting and I was shocked that at my age of 67 that I had never thought about this being a problem in this country,” group member Teresa Davis said. “Anything that negatively impacts us preparing children for the future — I just can’t ignore that.”
With an idea in her head and support already growing, Presley got to work on Go With the Flow. Although the project was not born overnight, in a way, it was.
“We’re living in a world of the GoFundMe where you can put anything on GoFundMe, so that’s what I did,” Presley said. “I made a Facebook page and I set up a GoFundMe account and I posted it to my personal Facebook page, letting my friends know what was going on. I think I did that on a Sunday. By Tuesday, I had over six hundred dollars in donations and that’s really been the tone of what has happened.”
Flash forward to today and Go With the Flow has taken off, with packing parties and Presley’s solo efforts ensuring that girls across Arizona have access to supplies they need to stay in school during their periods.
“I really just send them [the schools] emails,” Presley said. “I let them know when I can do disbursements and I set up a day and time and I show up with everything and when they start giving everything out, they let me know if they need any more, so it’s not like a one-stop drop, it’s something that they can reach out to me to access whenever they need so that way there’s a continuous supply of packs at the school.”
Presley emphasizes the difference that the community has made, with overwhelming support coming in both monetary and volunteering forms.
“What I have discovered is that a lot of people, they want to help,” Presley said. “They genuinely want to give back to their community in some capacity, they just have to have a way to do so, they have to have a need presented and they will absolutely step up and do what they can to meet it. They’re not doing it for me, they’re doing it because they believe in Go With the Flow and what it does and what it can provide to students.”
With each pack, a girl has a better chance of being present in school during her period, and that is where the success lies. For Presley, Go With the Flow will continue until no girl feels like she cannot attend school because of her inability to equip herself with feminine hygiene products.
“I don’t plan on stopping with Go With the Flow until this is a need that I don’t have to meet anyone,” Presley said. “I’m fine if one day there is no need for me, but until then I want to do what I can to fill in that gap for students and make sure that they have what they need.”
Donate to Go With the Flow here: https://www.gofundme.com/rzmnp-go-with-the-flow