FEM teams with Pine Ridge

For women who live on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation—the third poorest county in the nation—obtaining feminine products such as sanitary pads or tampons can be difficult.

For not only are the products often too expensive for a family’s budget, but access to the stores is limited. It’s a problem that has only been exacerbated following the Midwest’s record flooding this spring.

“Although it’s a very ceremonial and very sacred time of the month, it’s a time where it might really stretch the resources for families who are strapped for cash,” said alumni Amanda Hill ‘99 who works for Indian Health Services. “If you only have a fixed income and there’s 10 people living in your house, you’re going to use that for food, electricity, diapers.”

Each year, women and girls from the reservation report missing school and work when on their period, sometimes for up to a week at a time. Hill, who operates a clinic in Pine Ridge High School and gives womanhood talks in middle schools, said young women frequently approach her for products.

For this reason, students in Augustana’s Feminist Equality Movement (FEM) partnered with Hill to spread awareness and raise roughly $450 worth of feminine products for people on Pine Ridge.

It was FEM’s second year working with Hill who has served as a midwife on the reservation for the past 10 years. She said that when it comes to charitable donations, women’s health products often get put on the back burner.

“Sometimes you get into this culture of poverty porn where people feel good about donating whatever they don’t want—so we get crappy clothes and stinky underwear and used bras,” Hill said. “That’s why I’ve loved having this period products drive because no one donates that type of stuff, because who wants to buy tampons—it’s not luxurious, it’s not glamorous.”

In addition, Hill’s clinic provides other resources essential to women’s health, such as birth control, prenatal care, PAP smear exams and pregnancy tests.

Although women’s health products may not be as urgent as food or electricity, Hill said, “being able to put on a fresh pair of underwear and a fresh pad and move on with your life and keep going in the face of all these other adversities is huge.”

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