YOUTH ACTIVISM

End Poverty. PERIOD.

Breanna and Brooke Bennett, student activists and founders of Women in Training, explain the impetus for their work to provide free menstrual products to all menstruating students.
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Photography by Cierra Brinson

Our life’s mission is to end poverty. PERIOD! We recently celebrated a major victory in our journey: Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed House Bill 50 into law on April 14, 2022, making us only the seventh state in the United States to have a mandate to provide menstrual hygiene products. The law establishes grants to provide free period products to menstruating students in Title I schools, where poverty is highest.

Legislation to end period poverty is trending! Alabama State Rep. Rolanda Hollis introduced similar bills three times before we finally got a law. Other states with laws to end period poverty are California, Illinois, New Hampshire, New York, Utah and Virginia. HB 50 passed unanimously in Alabama, which is quite amazing in a male-dominated House and Senate! Nationally, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng of New York City introduced the Menstrual Equity for All Act of 2021 to provide federal support for menstruators.

We have been recognized nationally for our menstrual equity advocacy. How did we become so passionate about ending poverty, in general, and period poverty in particular? The issue of girls not having the products they need during their menstrual cycle really hit us hard when our mom taught at an all-girls magnet school in Miami, where we lived before moving to Montgomery. Girls used socks and toilet paper to absorb their menstrual blood. We cried when we learned that 25% of American mothers sometimes have to choose between buying food and providing their children with menstrual supplies. We also observed period poverty when we lived abroad.

So, on our 12th birthday in July 2019, we started Women in Training, Inc., or WIT, to help end period poverty. WIT provides menstrual education programs and donates monthly WITKITS of menstrual, dental and hygiene supplies to young people who menstruate. Our volunteers give out WITKITS in public schools, after-school programs, homeless shelters, runaway teen shelters, orphanages, foster care facilities and programs for imprisoned women and their children. To date, we have distributed more than 15,000 monthly WITKITS.

Early on, we realized two things. First, we can give out free period products until kingdom comes, but that won’t solve the core problem: the cycle of generational poverty. Some teenagers are living in the same public housing projects, attending the same low-performing schools and experiencing the same hypertension, diabetes, unplanned pregnancies and fibroids as did their mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers before them. Next, we realized we need to bring together leaders in the corporate world, philanthropy, the government and young people to solve this solvable problem of poverty. In a world overflowing with resources, every human being can have plenty of nutritious and delicious food, secure housing, excellent health care, global education ... and a bounty of menstrual products, menstrual education and reproductive freedom!

Photo of young Black girls holding Women in Training products.

We collaborate with Always brand of Procter & Gamble to spread our messages to end period poverty, and end poverty. PERIOD! We are currently collaborating with Walmart to do the same. On the federal government level, this summer we traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with the Democratic Women’s Caucus. We would also love to work with Republican and Independent elected officials to end poverty and create a society that celebrates menstrual equity. At the U.S. Capitol, we met with Rep. Meng, Rep. Lois Frankel of Florida, and Alabama’s Rep. Terri Sewell, who introduced us to Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, Chairman of the Democratic Caucus. The Southern Black Girls and Women’s Consortium, led by Ms. Latosha Brown of Black Voters Matter, sponsored our trip to D.C. We took 12 high school WIT Young Leaders with us.

Over the next few years, we are focusing on three areas. First, we are seeking funding to put vending machines of free period products on college campuses. Next, we are seeking funding to organize mission trips to Africa and the Caribbean to provide menstrual education and supplies. Finally, we want to present the President’s Volunteer Service Award to corporate volunteers, students and adult mentors who work to end period poverty and end poverty. PERIOD!

Additional Resources

“Equity, Period” by Coshandra Dillard

Join the movement to destigmatize menstruation and make schools more accommodating for all students who experience it. Read the article here.

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