Sherin Dawud and Raina Vallot, the founders of Power Pump Girls. Photo by Kristen Soileau Freeman.

Power Pump Girls and the fight against period poverty

That time of the month, Aunt Flow, Mother Nature … Periods. We’ve all heard of them, and at least half of the population has experienced them. They’re inconvenient, sometimes painful and always an expense that women begrudgingly pay for. Now imagine that every time Mother Nature visited you, you had zero access to any menstrual hygiene products. An atomic bomb on your pride and health, right? For many, this isn’t just a scenario, it’s their life.

It’s called period poverty, and the Power Pump Girls are ready to put an end to it. Their weapon of choice? The secured. program.

“When an individual can not provide, or doesn’t have access to, menstrual hygiene products, it has ripple effects with their dignity and health,” says Raina Vallot, cofounder of PPG. “We recognized a need in Baton Rouge and knew there was more we could offer.”

Founded by Sherin Dawud and Vallot, PPG centers around supporting women and influencing positive change. With the secured. program, PPG is able to use its platform raising awareness and funds to provide menstrual hygiene products for those without the means to access them. To kickstart the program with a loud and clear voice, the organization elected six ambassadors that embodied their vision to actively fundraise and advocate for an end to period poverty.

During their secured. campaigns, the ambassadors are raising funds to purchase and distribute menstrual hygiene products for shelters, prisons and schools in the Baton Rouge community.

In hopes to give a voice to an overlooked cause, Heather Deare jumped on the opportunity to become an ambassador.

Heather Deare, secured. ambassador. Photo courtesy Heather Deare.

“It’s a need that people don’t think about,” Deare said. “There are about 200,000 women who live in Baton Rouge, and approximately a quarter of them are living in poverty.” When these individuals are faced with the decision to buy food or tampons, food usually wins and that needs to change, she says.

Heartbroken for those faced with period poverty, Deare strives to spread awareness and hopes for change. “Personally, I believe that people should have access to these products for free,” she says. “It’s not a choice, it’s a right.”

Fundraising mostly through the power of social media, Deare aspires to create an open dialogue that raises awareness and tears down the stereotype that period talk is taboo. “It’s a topic that makes some uncomfortable, which to me means that we should talk about it more!” she says.

Once we start a conversation, we take away any shameful stigma, Deare notes. “Menstruation is a natural and healthy part of our lives, not something we should be ashamed of,” she says.

Joining Deare in the roles of secured. ambassadors are Cynthea Corfah, Zana Harris, Nikky Scott, Kennedy Smothers and DeKenya Douglas. Together, these women are a shinning light on period poverty and taking a stand to better the community.

Along with her fundraising, Deare encourages people to keep the conversation going and to donate menstrual hygiene products anytime there is a donation drive for nonperishables, especially after natural disasters like the Louisiana flood of 2016. Whether someone isn’t financially or physically able to access menstrual hygiene products, it is important that they receive these health necessities. And with secured. there is hope that they will.

“We call it ‘secured.’ like the millennial saying ‘securing the bag,’” Vallot says, “to ensure that people feel safe and secured.”

Secured. will remain as an ongoing program to fight period poverty, however the ambassadors’ fundraising campaigns are temporary initiatives in order to spread the message and get people involved. “There’s a lot of good hearts in the city that could join the movement,” Deare says.

Interested in joining the conversation? Check out the PPG website here. The organization is also on Facebook and Instagram. The ambassadors’ fundraising campaigns are actively accepting donations. For more information on how to donate, visit here.