Today, we are announcing our new program, WičhičhaǧAStrong (meaning “they all grow, they thrive, they prosper, they are the generation” in Lakota), to focus on issues of women’s health on native reservations.
The first step? To help overcome “Period poverty.” Our goal is to ensure all people who have periods have what for many can seem so readily available – hygiene products.
“Period poverty” is defined as an inability for people who menstruate to purchase sanitary products and is a pervasive problem throughout Indian Country.
Today, Running Strong is addressing the inequitable access to period products through our new program, WičhičhaǧAStrong, and soon we will be shipping 3,000 feminine hygiene kits containing flushable wipes, tampons, maxi pads, soap, hand sanitizer, antiseptic wipes and more to 15 tribal communities in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah.
The need for access for free or lower-cost feminine hygiene items for Native American women is much greater that many realize.
In 2019, the NBC TODAY Show aired a report “What is period poverty? Native American women work to address issue.”
“I couldn’t access tampons. I would ask some friends for tampons when I needed them,” a then 17-year-old student at the Red Cloud High School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, said on the broadcast, adding that she knew of classmates “who are chronically affected by period poverty.
“I know a lot of young women who are my friends and classmates who experience that problem.”
South Dakota, where Pine Ridge is located, is among the states that still has a sales tax on feminine hygiene products and just this month a bill introduced by state Rep. Erin Healy, Assistant Minority Leader, to eliminate the tax failed in a legislative committee.
In addition, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that people who experience poverty spend more on basic items such as tampons and toilet paper because they are unable to purchase items in bulk at less cost, and for those in rural communities such as Pine Ridge who cannot afford to drive long distances to the nearest big box store, they have no choice to pay much higher prices at convenient stores.
The WičhičhaǧAStrong kits are just the first step in addressing issues of women’s health and wellness on native reservations.