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Honors Tutorial College

The Period Project

Maddie Sloat, freshman at the Honors Tutorial College of Ohio University, founded the Period Project: an initiative to provide free feminine care products for women in need.
Alisa Warren | Feb 25, 2016

 

The quiet sobbing of a stranger on the other side of a bathroom stall in a suburban, Pennsylvania high school introduced Maddie Sloat to an unfortunate reality.

But for Sloat, an Honors Tutorial College freshman majoring in communication studies, meeting the girl in the bathroom inspired her to establish the Period Project a year later. The project is a charity initiative that aims to donate feminine care products to women in poverty, beginning in one of the poorest counties in the state of Ohio: Athens.

“The girl came out, and she just broke down to me that she had been using the same pad for three days straight,” Sloat said.

She realized after the incident that the lack of accessibility to feminine care products can be attributed to high costs and the “luxury” sales tax classification of these items, despite the fact that such products are necessary to feminine hygiene.

On top of that, she added, are the stigmas associated with menstruation that lead many girls to be fearful of asking for help, like the girl in this case.

Forty out of 50 states enforce a sales tax on feminine care items, including Ohio, and the average cost for a box of pads or tampons is around $5.

“You might go through one or two of those a month,” she said. “You could be spending upwards of $70 a year, which is $2,800 if you menstruated for around 40 years.”

The numbers only multiply when menstruating daughters to care for are added to the mix, she added.

The idea is catching on in the Ohio University community and beyond, as the GoFundMe fundraising page for the project raised well over the original goal of $500 within the first 24 hours of posting it. Sloat and her team of friends raised the goal to $1,000, and within 9 days, the page received almost $400 above the second goal.

Sloat and her team made the project’s first donation on Feb. 18, $493 worth of feminine hygiene projects, to the Good Works Timothy House, a homeless shelter that serves men, women and families from the Athens area in need of housing.

“We have a unique opportunity on this campus because we have the campus, and outside of it is this poverty that I don’t think a lot of students are aware of,” Sloat said. “And so I want to first start out with helping our community to get these products out and be more accessible.”

Her goal is to extend this project to reach every county in the state of Ohio by the end of her senior year in college and eventually establish it as a student organization on campus.

Sloat acknowledged the challenges she’ll face while battling to dispel the taboos associated with conversations about menstruation, and stressed her conviction that this shouldn’t be the case in the 21st century.

“I think because women are supposed to be lady-like, and we’re supposed to keep things to ourselves, we’ve created this taboo around menstruation, because it’s turned into this shameful, personal issue,” she said. “Really, it’s not. It’s something that affects half of the global population.”

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