Local org SisterFriend wants you to have menstrual period parties this holiday season | Health | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Local org SisterFriend wants you to have menstrual period parties this holiday season

click to enlarge Local org SisterFriend wants you to have menstrual period parties this holiday season
Photo: Courtesy of SisterFriend

Tamara Abney has spent nearly a decade getting menstrual products to schools, community centers and shelters across Pittsburgh. In 2022, she was named the PA Period Hero. Her next project is urging individuals to think about their own organizing power.

SisterFriend, the organization she founded in 2015 that, in its own words, is “dedicated to sustaining menstrual health through the provision of menstrual hygiene products, education, and advocacy,” recently introduced the “Period Party Challenge.” The initiative helps individuals destigmatize conversations about menstruation, recognize their community’s needs, and take action.

The challenge is straightforward, and three-fold: first, host a party and gather menstrual products. Whether that’s texting before your family game night, collecting products from coworkers in your break room, or making it a sorority or fraternity service project — Abney says the possibilities are endless.

“It’s really about bringing people together, enjoying each other’s company, being able to have some dialogue about menstrual equity, and then taking those donations to organizations in their local community,” she tells Pittsburgh City Paper.

She hopes that with the holidays soon upon us, people can incorporate the challenge into their plans. It’s as simple as picking up some pads along with that can of cranberry sauce.

“If you’re having a holiday gathering with your friends, maybe everybody who comes brings a package of Always or a package of tampons,” she says. “It’s really so easy to do, and it can make such a great impact.”

click to enlarge Local org SisterFriend wants you to have menstrual period parties this holiday season
Photo: Courtesy of SisterFriend
Tamara Abney
The second step comes after your gathering: finding somewhere to donate the products. SisterFriend’s toolkit includes suggested places, as well as a sample letter to send to your chosen organization.

You may not have to look farther than the middle school down the street or a nearby YMCA. In fact, that’s where SisterFriend hopes you look. Ask family and friends for ideas — maybe someone’s workplace doesn’t have products in the restrooms.

“Sometimes people think ‘I have to collect thousands’ or ‘I have to give it to a large organization,’” Abney says. “But I want people to think big and think small. Think about that local after-school program that maybe only has 20 kids. They could use menstrual hygiene products.”

Then, Abney wants you to post about it. The “Period Party Challenge” toolkit also contains templates for social media posts and hashtags to use. Snap a few pictures of your gathering or the products you collected, and tag SisterFriend.

“There’s power in people seeing that you’re doing it — it inspires them to do it as well,” Abney tells City Paper.

Abney says the idea for period parties came from years of groups hosting drives for SisterFriend itself, which would then distribute those donations. She realized she could make the process more accessible, and encourage direct interactions within communities. So, she started working on an interpersonal organizing initiative.

She hopes people will make that cognitive shift and take ownership of this issue. “We want people to start having these conversations within their homes and friend groups,” she says. “We all have the opportunity to be advocates for menstrual equity.”

She says that period poverty is still a huge problem in Pittsburgh, with people contacting her every day. “The need is still very great,” she says. “And the need is greater than just one organization.”

If people have questions about hosting a period party, they can visit the SisterFriend website or email [email protected].

“It’s time for us to think about what we can do as individuals to make this impact within our communities,” Abney says. “And I say within our communities, because if everyone thinks locally, then we can spread out globally, because everybody is taking responsibility for their neighborhood.”

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