Expanding access to menstrual resources

Lisa Leone has been running a menstrual product drive to combat period poverty. | Photo courtesy of Lisa Leone

A Packer Park native is continuing to do her part to address period poverty in her hometown. 

Lisa Leone, through her nonprofit organization Volunteer Together along with the help of No More Secrets MBS Inc., is currently running a menstrual product drive to provide women easy access to menstrual care. Products being collected as part of the drive, which runs until Dec. 20, include tampons, pads and other hygienic products such as body wash and wipes.   

For the now-Los Angeles-based Leone, combating period poverty, which is defined as inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and education, has developed into a leading passion of hers over the last few years. She believes the product drive will go a long way toward shining a bigger spotlight on the issue.

“It’s becoming this awesome thing that I’m really excited about, which is just making people aware that period poverty really is going on,” Leone said.

Leone first became interested in tackling period poverty in 2019 after watching Period. End of Sentence. on Netflix. The 30-minute documentary short film, based on a true story, followed a group of women in Hapur, India, as they not only learned to produce sanitary pads for their community, but looked to break down various taboos in India surrounding menstruation.  

Leone said the film left a huge impression on her, as many of the ideas and issues presented in it were things she had no previous knowledge of.

“I was just blown away,” Leone said. “It was the weirdest thing, but I just couldn’t sleep. And so within like five days, I came up with this project called the Period Project.”  

As part of the Period Project, Leone and a group of fellow volunteers raised over $6,000 to put together over 800 menstruation kits, which consisted of reusable pads, period trackers and other menstruation products. The group then made the trip to northern India to deliver the kits themselves and educate the local girls on proper menstruation care.

After arriving home from that two-week excursion, Leone began to focus her attention on period poverty here in the United States.

“I decided I wanted to be an activist for ending period poverty,” Leone said. “I wanted to make sure that whoever needed a tampon, a pad or whatever they wanted to use, had it.”

That was when Leone came up with the idea for a menstrual product drive. She partnered with No More Secrets MBS Inc., a wellness organization that established the nation’s first menstrual hub, The SPOT Period, in Germantown. Leone then created an Amazon wish list for everyone to get involved, with products purchased through it going directly to The SPOT Period.

So far, the product drive has been a success. Over 360 products have been collected in just under four weeks, and Leone is on pace to reach her goal of collecting 500 products by Dec. 20.

Leone has been more than thrilled with the progress that has been made. She noted how so many others were also not aware of how widespread of an issue period poverty is, which only made them more eager to contribute to the cause.

“It’s been pretty cool seeing it all come together,” Leone said.

But Leone is well aware that more needs to be done to fully combat the issue. She pointed out that many of the practices that lead to period poverty, including taxes on menstrual products, are still in place.

Leone said the best way to address those issues, aside from outreach efforts, is furthering dialogue on the issue.  

“Having the conversation and making noise about it, I think, is the only real way,” Leone said.