How Maggie Walker founded PERIOD@UM, an organization dedicated to the eradication of period poverty and stigma
When junior Maggie Walker began her college career in 2019, she immediately began getting involved in different clubs and activities. “All of freshman year I [went] non-stop, getting involved in everything possible on campus,” she said. “My love for Oxford and this university grew immensely because I finally understood what it meant to be part of the ‘Ole Miss Family.’”
However, when the pandemic hit, she was forced to slow down. “I had a lot of time to reflect on how I was investing my time, where I saw myself going in the coming semesters, and whether or not I was doing things I was truly passionate about,” she said. “At the end of my four years at Ole Miss, I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself. I tried to find an intersection between my identities, passions, and where there existed a need on campus, and that is how PERIOD@UM was born.”
PERIOD@UM, which Walker officially began this year, is the Ole Miss chapter of PERIOD, a global non-profit organization. “The national organization [was] beyond accommodating, and made starting my own chapter incredibly easy,” she said. PERIOD’s primary focus, which PERIOD@UM is implementing at Ole Miss, is fighting to end period poverty and stigma through service, education, and advocacy.
To further this cause, Walker first had to organize a staff. Using contacts she’d made as President of Lambda Sigma and other “confident and capable women” on campus, she “eventually developed a strong team full of outgoing, passionate students.” Once this was accomplished, the team could turn their attention to helping end period poverty and the stigma around menstruation.
Period poverty, which is the lack of access to sanitary products and menstrual hygiene education, is experienced by 1 in 10 college students. COVID has only made the crisis worse, especially for younger menstruators who have no access to products or education at home. “Though I never faced period poverty, I think every woman knows the pain in swiping your card for a box of tampons or pads,” Walker said. “Why should we have to pay so much for a basic necessity?”
Starting these conversations was Walker’s first aim in beginning PERIOD@UM, and these conversations began with the club’s members. “When I started PERIOD@UM, I knew I didn’t want there to be any requirements to join,” she said. “There are enough barriers facing women in our society today that I wanted to create an open, safe, inclusive environment where everyone can come together to work towards a common goal.”
These goals include organizing a public forum for the Oxford-Lafayette community focused on education about women’s health, as well as hosting menstrual product drives with sororities and classes on campus. Beyond the immediate COMMUNITY, Walker would also like to see the group expand to serve in places where period poverty is widespread, such as Jackson and areas in the Delta. Alongside this, PERIOD@UM was awarded $1,000 from the Diversity Incentive Fund to support menstrual cup outreach and education; with this money, the group will provide local high school nurses with free menstrual cups to discreetly distribute to students.
While barriers such as a lack of adequate education and high prices on menstruation products are the reason Walker began PERIOD@UM, “there are zero barriers facing students getting involved in this organization,” she said. “Fostering the conversation about women’s health at Ole Miss and within the Oxford-Lafayette community is vital. This is an organization for everyone regardless of who you are or where you come from. Come one, come all!”
For anyone interested in supporting PERIOD@UM’s cause, make sure to follow the group’s Instagram page (@period.um) for the meeting schedule and updates, and fill out the Interest Form in the page’s bio to get added to PERIOD’s email list and GroupMe.