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Feminist ND, student government host successful menstrual product drive benefiting South Bend

| Monday, March 1, 2021

Over the past two weeks, an inconspicuous cardboard box sat first in Duncan Student Center and then in the LaFortune Student Center. Almost everyday, it was filled with sanitary pads, tampons, shampoo and other toiletries to be donated in the Feminist ND and student government menstrual drive. 

From Feb. 15 through Feb. 26, Feminist ND and the student government’s Department of Gender Relations sponsored a menstrual product drive to benefit the South Bend Center for the Homeless, St. Margret’s House and Hope Ministries. Dozens of boxes were collected over the past two weeks to total hundreds of tampons, pads and other toiletry products to be donated. 

Co-secretary and treasurer of Feminist ND sophomore Jing Tong said, “It would be cool if it would become an annual thing because the drive was super successful.” 

Over the two weeks, students were encouraged to buy period products, as well as shaving cream, deodorant, body wash and other toiletry items, and place them in boxes in the Duncan Student Center lobby and in the Lafortune Student Center elevator lobby. 

Courtesy of Jing Tong
Menstrual and other toiletry products were collected by Feminist ND and the gender relations department in February to benefit the South Bend Center for the Homeless, St. Margaret’s House and Hope Ministries.

The idea for the drive started from a desire to help and work with the South Bend community, Tong said. 

Sophomore Meredith Wilson, the student government director of gender relations, said, “I wanted to engage a little more with the South Bend community because I felt there was more of an opportunity for partnership between student government and South Bend.”

Wilson then spoke with junior Julianne Downing, co-president of Feminist ND, and together the groups began planning for the menstrual product drive. Wilson said the club handled a lot of the logistics while gender relations helped amplify the drive to the student body. 

“We are very grateful to partner with [Feminist ND],” Wilson said, commenting on the success of the drive. 

The drive aimed to collect products for those suffering from period poverty.

“Period poverty is the inaccessibility to menstrual health products caused by poverty due not only to the high costs of disposable products, but also material circumstances,” Tong said. 

Tong added the pandemic has heightened the urgent need for menstrual products for many people.

“We know by the numbers people in poverty suffer inadequate access to healthcare, not just [from] products we can consume on a daily basis, but [also] the general healthcare facilities and the conditions they live in at home, which make them more prone to menstrual health issues,” Tong said. 

In all, the drive collected around 60 packaged items to donate, amounting to hundreds of individual period products, including around 500 pads and liners and 350 tampons. Tong said in a follow-up email they were also happy to see they collected period products of many sizes. 

“We were blown away by the enthusiasm,” Tong said. 

In order to be conscious of the pandemic, the club did virtually all advertising and awareness raising for the drive over Instagram through promos and infographic posts. 

The board of Feminist ND said in a statement on the menstrual product drive, “We are so grateful to our members for their generosity during this drive. We look forward to making this an annual event.”

Feminist ND was recently revitalized this past year, Downing said. The club promotes women’s rights and social justice within the tri-campus and South Bend community. 

“We are mask-wearing educators and advocates for gender equality, consistent with the mission of Notre Dame,” Downing said. 

Downing and co-president senior Yuanmeng He run the club along with Tong, ten other board members and faculty advisor Michael Rea.

Downing said the drive is one of He’s legacies, as she will be graduating this year and completing her time as club president. She also commended Tong and Wilson for running the drive on the ground, as He and Downing are completing this semester online. 

The club creates monthly “Feminist Digest” emails sharing feminist news, conducts faculty interviews, creates online community reading lists and shares alumni career news. On its Instagram, the club creates educational posts on topics such as transformative justice and intersectionality and this month, the club focused on Black History month. 

“Our club made very strategic adaptations to the pandemic, and we are pleased to have experienced our most active year in recent club history,” Downing said. 

She said the club has become almost entirely virtual this year to be conscious of the ways the pandemic has disproportionately hurt impoverished communities and people of color. This has led to increased activity and engagement on the club’s Instagram.  

“We rebranded our club in September and saw a quadrupling in our social media following, along with growing engagement each month,” Downing said. 

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About Isabella Volmert

Isabella "Issy" Volmert is a senior majoring in English and minoring in theology and journalism, ethics and democracy at the University of Notre Dame. She currently serves The Observer as assistant managing editor. Follow her @ivolmertnews for niche JED Twitter content.

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