Asian, Latinx, African, and Native American Womxn, also known as ALANA, is one of the multicultural organizations that provide resources to students at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. According to ALANA Co-Chair Isabel Ortiz, the organization was created to create a platform for womxn of differing identities to support each other and raise identity awareness; “So our focus in ALANA is to have a space for, and to bring awareness to intersecting identities and to educate the UWL campus on the needs, accomplishments, and celebrations of various communities.”
From Nov. 11-15, ALANA, in partnership with College Feminists, will be hosting a Menstrual Product Drive to benefit local womxn’s shelters.
Though the quantity and distinction vary, in the United States, certain products deemed basic necessities are exempt from taxation. Among these, in many states, are items such as chapstick, Viagra, and dandruff shampoo, according to NPR journalist Ema Sagner. In 34 states, including Wisconsin, tampons and pads are taxed as luxury items.
Numbers for calculating just how exactly a person with a menstrual cycle will spend is difficult to compute due to the differences in state taxes, income available to spend on assistance products, and the biological variances of periods between individual people, but for the average person with a menstrual cycle they will spend $1,773.33 on tampons and $443.33 on panty liners during their lifetime.
In the U.S., nearly 14 percent of girls and women live below the poverty line—compared to only 11 percent of boys and men. This disparity holds at nearly every age, and is strongest during a woman’s menstruating years.
In response to this, advocates in the U.S. are calling for policy changes through a movement called Period Equity. According to the organization’s homepage, the movement exists to focus on the issues of the tax, access to products, and the safety of products available,”we believe that in order to have a fully participatory society, we must have laws and policies that ensure menstrual products are safe and affordable for everyone who needs them.”
In England, where menstrual product taxes are levied, monthly costs are less. “You can buy a pack of 20 Tampax for £1.90, a box of 14 super plus extra Lil-Lets for £1.50, and a pack of 20 Tesco own-brand tampons for £0.95, even if you go through two or three boxes a month, that would cost less than £5 a period,” said Georgina Lee, a reporter for Channel 4 News.
For those living in poverty, using income towards menstruation products is not feasible. Period Equity explains this: “Many in the US are forced to make a terrible choice between buying food or menstrual products. Those who are unable to afford tampons and pads are at risk of isolation, infection and even missed days of school and work,”
Ortiz says ALANA and College Feminists see the importance of this necessity in the humanization of those below the poverty line and attempt to combat the inequity in womxn’s shelters in La Crosse with the Drive. “We saw a need to supplement these products for community members that don’t always have access to these resources. So the Menstrual Product Drive was created to encourage willing campus members to donate products such as pads, tampons, liners, and cups to be able to bring these to communities that need it,” said Ortiz.
Two years ago, UWL implemented period boxes on campus to provide menstruation financial relief to students. Free tampons and pads are available in women’s and gender-neutral bathrooms in most buildings on campus.
Ortiz says they are still communicating with organizations around La Crosse to coordinate donation services, but have previously donated their supplies to several areas in and around the community. “In the past, we have donated these products to the UWL Food Pantry, YWCA’s Ophelia’s House, and New Horizons Shelter,” said Ortiz.
Currently, ALANA and College Feminists are in the stage of approving places to put the donation boxes for the drive. They hope to see them in the COVE, the Office of Multicultural Student Services (OMSS), and the Recreational Eagle Center (REC).
ALANA meets on Tuesdays at 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. in room 1403 Centennial Hall. For more information about the organization, email Isabel Ortiz at [email protected]