MINEAPOLIS – Piled beneath dozens boxes of tampons and sanitary pads in her living room, is a reality Andrea Amelse, 22, of Minneapolis, has never faced.
The Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) student has never had to choose between buying a box of tampons or buying food, but the people she’s collected the feminine hygiene products for, mainly low-income women and women experiencing homelessness, face this choice every month during their menstrual cycle.
Amelse has raised nearly $2,000 after starting a "Homeless Period Minneapolis" crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe.
It all began with research for a class project in an entrepreneurial studies program, which eventually led her to The Homeless Period organization based in London. Started in the UK, and now spreading across the United States, #TheHomelessPeriod was founded to help women who face that time of the month with perpetual dread.
“I've had homeless women tell me they used socks and just reused them, wash them out going into public bathrooms and use toilet paper just to get buy because these products are expensive or couldn't access them,” said Amelse.
Tampons and pads usually top the list of needs at homeless shelters. Amelse also discovered many women experiencing homelessness are victims of domestic abuse or mothers still trying to provide for their children.
“I told myself, I have this business plan, I have the budget, everything figured out, time constraints, why don't I just do it?” said Amelse. “I filled up a shopping cart my first trip and it was $180 so I eventually moved to ordering online.”
Her menstrual movement isn't just about a cycle of poverty or getting products to women in need, but Amelse has set out to normalize the conversation around women’s periods.
“Also helping end the societal stigma that periods are disgusting and shameful, and should be hidden and you should be discreet about it. Buying one of these products, I would put them at the bottom of my cart, when I went to check out I would make sure my cashier was female. I often questioned, why? Why is there this sense of shame and guilt?” said Amelse. “It's 2017 and we should be able to talk about this openly.”
Amelse estimated that a lifetime supply of tampons would cost an average of about $3,000. Her campaign is driven in part by her one-year-old daughter.
“Having my daughter at a young age by social standards has really given me a sense of ambition, that I have never had before. I didn't know how much inspiration I could have by such a little human. I want to prove to her that you are capable of so much more than you give yourself credit for, and one person really can make a difference,” she said.
Why Amelse is delivering dignity, one box of tampons at a time, something she believes every woman deserves. Period.
“I told myself to ignore my fears, just do this, not only for myself and that confidence, but mostly for these women, and knowing I am doing a good thing for my community and helping to inspire others too,” said Amelse.
Amelse plans to document her journey on her GoFundMe page as she delivers the products to shelters. Follow along here.