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What It’s Like Living With Period Poverty

And Why We Need To Come Clean About It

 
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When I learned these stats I felt slightly (majorly) out of touch.

~ Nearly 1 in 5 American girls have either missed school or left early because they didn’t have access to the products they needed to manage their periods.

~ This causes them not only to miss out in all the important classes, but also all the opportunities to learn, grow and build confidence at school.

The following content is sponsored by Always.

I felt caught off guard thinking to myself “Wait what? I should know this. I should be doing something about this.” This is a solvable problem, but something is missing if someone like me doesn’t know about it. I kind of prided myself on being “in-the-know” – but apparently I’ve been asleep at the wheel when it comes to period poverty.

“Have you ever heard of this?” I asked my FB group that has become my go-to group of on and off-line Latina friends for years now. I @tagged them and in just a few minutes, they were chiming in with their feedback, stories and answers.

I asked them to not only chime in if they knew what it was, but also if they’d experienced it themselves.

My girls chimed in alright. The question got over 50 responses in less than an hour. A few of their stories completely blew me away.

Here’s what I keep learning again and again: the more we learn about each other, the more truth that comes out of our hearts, the more space is created to have true compassion for one another.

My friend Janeli recounted this story below which helped me understand just how easily something like this could happen.

It only took a few bad months and a housing crisis. Her story could be anyone’s story. Here’s the silver lining:

My friend Cindy chimed in with a story that added a new dimension to the conversation which is, “Who fills in when our moms are no longer around?” Thankfully she had her grandmother but it still made me sad for her.

It also brought something else up that my friend Eloisa helped me realize.

Notice how Cindy shared about her grandmother’s “morning crew.” At first, I was picturing a bunch of ladies that worked for her abuela. But what she meant was the group of women that her grandmother would talk to on the phone every morning to catch up on the day before.

My friend Eloisa was the one that brought up the collective to understand why Latinas might be so quiet about stuff like this.

She shared about how “El que diran culture” and how if you tell the wrong prima you know it’s just a matter of time before the whole family (collective) knows all your business.

This is particularly interesting to me because it’s a secret. I get it, I know why those girls are keeping this to themselves. Sadly, shame and embarrassment are probably up really high on the list too. And when those two things enter the room, confidence is nowhere to be found.

It’s already SO hard to talk about such a personal topic, but what happens when you add disconnection to the mix? One in 5 girls break connection with their school community because they have to leave early or not show up at all because of this.

I get why it drains self-assurance.

Maybe that’s why it breaks my heart. Because even though I cannot personally identify with period poverty, I’m all too familiar with the shame, embarrassment and disconnection associated with keeping a secret. I’m familiar with that loss of confidence that sense of losing who I am because I felt hopeless and like no one could help me.

You’re looking at the president of Somers High School class of 1988 here as well as the lead in the school musical Guys & Dolls. It was my first and last theatrical performance but I caught the bug on that stage so long ago which has served me well in my professional life.

You’re also looking at a young woman who felt terribly confused about who she was and where she fit into the world. I never felt #latinaenough or American enough. That experience were seeds of what would later be Project Eñye. #silverlining

The confusion was in large part a result of experiencing years of bullying – something I’d kept a secret from my family as I didn’t want to add anything more to their plate of worries.

Many of us eñyes come from homes where much sacrifice was made for us to have something better. In my case, we moved from The Bronx to Westchester specifically for better schools and a safer environment away from the concrete jungle. There were many sacrifices that went unseen but not unfelt. Something in me knew that it just wasn’t ok to bring this up and that it might somehow make things worse, were the reasons I told myself that I could never share the truth.

When I think about that time I wonder what it would have taken to get me to talk. To share about this very real situation that I was subjected to day in and day out felt impossible.

Shame is insidious. It slowly but surely holds you back from self-realizing. It reminds you on the daily that self-awareness of any kind is dangerous. Blossoming into a self-realized human being is not safe. It’s safer to hide and pretend and keep secrets.

When I look back at my teenage years, this is the lie that I believed. I’m so grateful that in my early 20’s I found peace and forgiveness for the bullies and myself for believing this distortion. Everyone is on their own path, including me.

Since most of the hard stuff in my life happened when I was a teenager, I feel forever connected to that young girl inside me that craved acceptance, love and protection. At times, I experienced such loneliness I simply didn’t have words to describe my isolation.

Because of this, I’m deeply committed to empowering young Latina women to thrive.

Sometimes you just need someone to share their experience to know, in your heart of hearts, that you are not alone and everyone deserves to know that.

With everything that happened during that chapter in my life, the last thing that I’d ever have to consider was having to miss school because I didn’t have enough pads. Interesting, the way “privilege” plays a role in everything.

I raised my hand high to support this campaign which in turn supports young women during a vulnerable time that happens every.single.month.

Always is on a mission to help ensure no girl in the U.S. misses school and loses confidence because she doesn’t have access to period protection. Always is sparking conversations and taking action to help #EndPeriodPoverty.

You can help! By raising awareness, you’re helping to make it easier to tackle the problem. You can rally your followers and help them understand that this is an issue for American school girls. You can also provide ways for them to help directly, whether through purchase and donation or social call to action. It would be a great step to ensure that, together, we can help end period poverty. And for every Always purchase from July 29 – September 8, Always will make a product donation to Feeding America’s school pantry program to benefit girls in need this school year, with a goal of donating an additional 15 million pads.

For decades, Always has been empowering millions of girls through puberty and confidence education, providing products to girls in need, and most recently by tackling societal barriers through the Always #LikeAGirl movement.

Please join me and Always to help make a difference.

2 Comments
  1. Denise says:

    OMG!! That is crazy! i’m so sorry to hear you had such a rough time with it and that’s pretty lame that your principal did that. : ( Can you imagine dealing with all that and then not having any pads or anything. It’s absolutely insane that this is happening. Thanks so much for commenting and I hope to see you in our community more Bella!

  2. Bella says:

    This was great 😭 and the timing even better as I just got my period today & I read that while sitting on my sofa in excruciating pain. It’s so hard for young girls because we were taught to hide our periods from the world and act like everything was great. I had such bad cramps one day while sat in the back of the class (in H.S.) that the teacher signaled for me to go before I passed out. I made it to the principal’s office and before I vomited the principal said “don’t vomit on my carpet!” and put a waste basket in front of me. It was terrible and I’ve struggled with my period all my life. I’m 44 now. So for a young girl to not have the support or the pads or medicine that she needs to cope & live really sucks😔. They shouldn’t have to suffer in silence and every girl should have what she needs.

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