Ideas & Innovations 2017: Necessary, Period

This Portland Nonprofit Leads the Menstrual Movement

Founded by two Catlin Gabel students, Period provides menstrual products, educates young people, and lobbies for change.

By Margaret Seiler June 12, 2017 Published in the July 2017 issue of Portland Monthly

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Image: Michael Novak

Maybe it’s no surprise that teenagers, barely removed from their own first bouts with puberty, started the nonprofit Period. Founded in 2014 by two Catlin Gabel students,* the organization has two chief goals:

  • Make periods less onerous for girls and women experiencing homelessness, who might be stuck using wadded toilet paper or socks. St. Mary’s, Grant High, and Forest Grove High are home to three of 50-plus chapters, which fundraise and distribute supplies via partners.
  • Make periods less of a burden for everyone, in part by getting supplies treated as essential, medical items, not luxuries. For sales-tax-less Oregonians, it’s startling to realize that most states tax tampons, pads, and menstrual cups, even if other necessities (food, medicine, condoms, adult diapers) might be exempt.

But first up, according to Period director of engagement (and Catlin rising senior) Tara Zic, is to “make the word period something people can say.” She notes that sometimes, men will “bring their wives to me and run away.” Her peers seem less freaked: “The good news,” she says, “is boys now are more used to hearing about this at an early age.”

*Résumé maxi-padding? Period founders Vincent Forand and Nadya Okamoto just finished their first years at Cornell and Harvard, respectively. After making the rounds of TED talks and international media interviews, 19-year-old Okamoto is running for a city council seat in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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