Aiko Pickering, a recent college graduate and Mobile, Ala., native, started Monthly in November 2020 to raise awareness about period poverty and provide menstrual products to people who need them.
Researchers found that 64% of women were unable to afford period products in 2017, according to a study conducted in 2018. This struggle is linked to socio-economic status and the “pink tax” or luxury tax placed on feminine products in 35 U.S. states.
Reckon spoke with Pickering about Monthly and how she plans to continue expanding the group’s reach in her native Alabama.
Reckon: What is Monthly?
Pickering: Monthly is a charity project working to alleviate period poverty in Mobile, Ala. When people think about fighting poverty or helping the community, they don’t think about donating menstrual products. We are trialing a community partnership system. Local organizations with people in need contact us and ask to be a community partner. They let us know how many people they serve and we deliver Monthly packets to them every month to distribute.
Monthly wants to foster a community that understands that period poverty affects anyone that has a period: Women, girls, trans, non-binary, gender non-conforming, intersex and the list goes on. We pride ourselves on inclusivity and recognizing the many experiences involved in period poverty. Our platform is meant to empower everyone in our community who menstruates and help bring awareness to the magnitude of period poverty and the many people it affects. Our hope is to alleviate period poverty for all menstruating people in our community and end the stigma and assumptions around periods.
Each Monthly packet includes five pads, five tampons, five panty liners and a Hershey’s kiss. A large part of Monthly is giving someone their dignity back. Every person that menstruates has a period every month and having to free-bleed, not by choice, takes some of your dignity away. We want to alleviate some of that stress.
Tell me about yourself. What inspired you to start Monthly?
I graduated from Springhill College in December of 2019 with a Bachelors of Arts in English and Sociology. My partner lives in the U.K., so right after graduating I moved there. COVID happened and all of my plans around graduating and getting my dream job came crashing down. I wanted to work in politics, so I applied to graduate school, but I didn’t get in. I came back to Mobile in November 2020.
I realized I had to quit waiting around for the dream jobs at nonprofits. I had a dream in my mind, but I wanted to stop waiting around for it and just do something or anything that I could right then to help my community. I just wanted to do something.
In the U.K., there are a ton of organizations fighting against period poverty and fighting for period equity. Scotland made period products free. This is not something that people talk about in Mobile. That’s how I came up with the idea.
How’s it going so far? Have you gotten support from the community?
We have given out 500 Monthly period packs so far. Monthly has given so many people the resources that they need, and it’s given me so much. I grew up in Mobile, and I hated it. I didn’t feel like I belonged in Mobile, but since starting Monthly, I have met so many people who want better for Mobile. They want change. They want to make Mobile to be more inclusive.
We have seen huge success. When I first started, I thought it would be a holiday project. I did not see it becoming what it is today. I didn’t think people would donate as much as they have. The success has been overwhelming. People are so supportive of the mission. So many people reach out asking how they can volunteer and work with us. It’s beautiful, really.
How can people help?
My hope is that Monthly will expand to other cities in Alabama. Period equity is not something that is being addressed on a state level, and we’d like to change that. We have an Instagram and Facebook page. We are currently working on a website. Any monetary donations are appreciated and we also accept donations of menstrual products. We are in the process of becoming an official non-profit, and going forward we will be looking for volunteers to take on various roles with Monthly.
Don’t live in Alabama?
Here is a national organization that works toward a similar goal: Alliance of Period Supplies
Here is a an organization in Georgia that also works to alleviate period poverty: Posh Pack