The Pulaski County Special School District boasts many bright students from 25 schools across central Arkansas. Just down the road, at Joe T. Robinson High School, a group of students is leading the charge to bring awareness to menstrual care in Arkansas.
PCSSD Executive Director of Communications, Jessica Duff, sat down with Robinson sophomore Emmarie Gates and library media specialist Lani Moore to discuss how this group is leading the menstrual movement at a grassroots level.
What is PERIOD.? Moore - We raise awareness and create change through events, campaigns and media relationships. The purpose of this club is to change the way we talk about periods.
How did the idea come about to start this club at Robinson High School? Gates - I saw this book [Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement] in the library and Ms. Moore pushed me to start reading it. It really inspired me. At the end of the book, the author has information on how to start your own chapter.
How does it feel to be at the groundbreaking level of starting the first chapter of PERIOD. In Arkansas? Gates - it’s very exciting and also stressful because I know I’m starting the first one here. There aren’t that many resources close by.
Is it typical to see such young students getting organizations like this started? Moore - This is the goal in library life. I want to create a place where you can find resources and information as well as where you can also find what you’re excited about, what you’re inspired by and how to make it happen. I think Emmarie is a special 10th-grader and this is the cycle: she read something, saw a need and wanted to do something to fix that need.
What are some of the plans or projects that PERIOD. will be doing in the community? Moore - We’ve got ideas for membership drives next year. One of the things we want to do is create care packages for women in the homeless community. I have some connections with The Van and The One.
How are other students around the school reacted to this organization? Gates - I haven’t had a chance to do a lot of promoting yet, but the ones who have heard about it seem really excited.
What are you looking forward to with the PERIOD. club next school year? Gates - There’s a real need for this in our community and no one seems to be addressing. If anyone wants to help you can make a small difference. Moore - This is also a [financial] factor for school children as well. Menstrual products are taxed and if you’re a parent trying to budget meals and bills, menstrual products don’t make the cut. So we’re thinking of ways to get donations for classmates and deliver them in a shame-free way.
Speaking of school-age children, how are you going to work with area middle schools to spread the PERIOD. message? Gates - I’d like to work with the middle schools and get books about this in the libraries. That’s how I learned about it when I was younger. But also just making visits at the schools and having open discussions with those girls.
Moore - I think younger girls are apt to listen to a high school girl coming to talk to them about this sort of thing, more than they would a health teacher or someone like that.