These Eighth-Grade Activists Are Providing Free Menstrual Products To Their Community
Childhood friends and eighth-grade classmates at Rochester Middle School Izzy Masias and Audrey Williams created No Problem.Period, a project that distributes free menstruation products to students and people in low-income communities in Rochester, Washington, last fall. One in five U.S. teens have difficulty affording period products, and eighty-four percent of U.S. students have missed class time or know someone who missed class because they could not access products, according to a 2019 Harris poll.
The 14-year-old activists said No Problem.Period began as the result of an assignment for a leadership class the students took; they were tasked to solve a problem in their community. Izzy and Audrey’s vision was to give girls better solutions to dealing with their periods at school. Audrey knew from experience how embarrassing it could be to not have access to products — on the first day of eighth grade, she got her period while in class and didn’t have a quarter to buy a sanitary napkin.
The girls came up with the idea to stock restrooms in their middle school with bins of pads, tampons, wipes, panty liners, replacement underwear, and leggings. In November 2019, their parents helped them organize a GoFundMe that has raised over $4,472 thus far. In January, Audrey and Izzy testified before the Washington State Senate in support of Senate Bill 6073, that would provide menstruation products in public school bathrooms in the state.
Supermajority News caught up with Izzy and Audrey to discuss their journey as young advocates and how they’re continuing their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why did you decide to focus on this issue?
Izzy Masias: Obviously, there are a lot of girls that struggle with this … it’s something that we all talk about. And it’s an embarrassing topic — like [we] always [talk about it] one on one. And so we kind of realized that there were a lot of people that needed [access to these products]. And so we thought that we would take it into our hands and help them.
I was having this conversation [with a classmate who] had her period in the middle of school, like in the middle of class, and she had to walk up to the nurse’s office. But our nurse’s office is like right in front of the commons when people are having lunches, and so then they would have to walk through so that would have been really embarrassing.
Audrey, you’ve said that you couldn’t get access to menstruation products that you needed in school. How’d that moment inspire the idea for No Problem.Period?
Audrey Williams: Well that was like a small part of it. That was way before I knew about the project. It was the first day of school, and I didn’t have proper supplies, and then we looked back on it when we were starting the project. I realized that it was a bigger problem than what I went through.
Once you raised money for this project on GoFundMe, how did you go about placing the supplies in your school?
Audrey Williams: For our first trip, we got one bin, and we filled it with all of this stuff — each size of the leggings and all of that good stuff. We bought some extras to refill it.
Once we got that one bin figured out and talked to all the teachers, we had an all-girls assembly. So it wasn’t any boys so that they didn’t feel uncomfortable. We told them what these bins were so that they didn’t just show up in the bathrooms. And right after we did the assembly, we put one bin in each of our three hallway bathrooms — there’s one for sixth grade, one for seventh grade, and one for eighth grade. Some of [the supplies] were going quick. But we had enough supplies in stock at the school, so we refilled it once a week.
Did a teacher or administrator help you figure out the best way to communicate the purpose of the bins?
Audrey Williams: Yeah, our counselor, because we have two male principals, so we thought she would relate more, so we went to her first. She put out the idea of having an all-girls assembly, and we thought that was really cool. She helped us organize it, and so did the principal, but they weren’t there on the actual day of the assembly.
Because of the pandemic, everyone’s staying home now. How are you keeping your initiative going during this time?
Audrey Williams: We started doing doorstep deliveries for like a week’s worth of supplies. My mom put up a Facebook post on our No Problem.Period page so [people] can contact us at our email account if they need anything, and then we leave [menstrual products] on their doorstep. We decided that [recipients] don’t need to be a teen, and they don’t need to go to Rochester Middle School. They just need to be in our area in Washington.
Izzy Masias: We also dropped off a week of supplies to like our local food bank, so that if people needed them, they could go there too.
What made you aware that people in your community beyond students needed this help?
Izzy Masias: It was mainly the feedback that we had got after [the campaign gained attention], like how many shares [posts about the project] got, and how many other people wanted it at their schools. It’s not just us that has this problem. It’s so many other girls around the world.
You spoke during a Washington state Senate hearing in support of Senate Bill 6073, which would provide menstruation products in public school bathrooms in the state. When you got in front of the Senate, what did you say?
Audrey Williams: Basically, that we know nobody that carries around 25 cents anymore and girls don’t want to miss school because of it. That was also one of our key points.
Izzy Masias: Another key point we had was on confidence and how girls lose a lot of confidence because this is something that you can easily be made fun of from boys and girls.
What do you both want to accomplish next with No Problem.Period?
Izzy Masias: We want to make bins and bring them to other schools in Washington first, and then we want to bring them around the country. But we are going to make starter toolkits of how to raise money and what would be in the bins, and then let them go on from there.
Audrey Williams: Yeah, It’s not just for middle school. We want to bring it up to our high school and to other schools.
Izzy Masias: We’re also going to put like at least one bin in our elementary school and in our primary school because there are some girls that start that early.