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Featured Mini-Grantee | The Flow Initiative in partnership with MassNOW

2024-07-01T10:46:10-04:00July 1st, 2024|

Menstrual Equity: Engage, Educate, Empower

Founded in 2019, The Flow Initiative is based in Jersey City and is a nationally recognized organization that aspires to educate the global community on menstrual health, period poverty, and menstrual equity.  It engages communities, leaders, and legislators on menstrual equity, promotes menstrual equity legislation, and empowers menstruating women and girls to #StopTheStigma around menstrual health.  Empowerment includes access to free menstrual health products, and to date, The Flow Initiative has donated products to 30,000 students and distributed 1.3 million menstrual health products worldwide.

The Flow Initiative partners with key organizations such as HealthierJC, the Alliance for Period Supplies, the United State of Women, and others to further its mission.  In applying for 2023 HealthierJC mini-grant funds, the Flow Initiative partnered with the Massachusetts branch of the National Organization of Women (MassNow) which launched a complementary initiative called the “Menstrual Equity Program” in 2022. 

HealthierJC + The Flow Initiative

The Flow Initiative believes that a Culture of Health means that when people are educated, they can proactively engage in the issues that matter most to them and become empowered to make a difference for themselves and others.  To advance the menstrual equity agenda, The Flow Initiative engages with the community to build brand awareness, conducts workshops to educate, and sponsors events to cultivate advocacy.

For HealthierJC, menstrual equity is part of the broader mission of health equity, and they support the following The Flow Initiative priorities for Jersey City:

  • Obtain menstrual equity by ensuring that all bathrooms are equipped with the needs of female biology and/or menstruating biology.  This would apply to all private, public, municipal, and government bathrooms.
  • Optimize student access to period products for all students by ensuring schools have period product dispensaries and open emergency period product distribution centers throughout Jersey City.
  • Enact grassroots programs to teach about menstruation and promote self-care, self-love, emotional intelligence, and confidence building for girls and adults of all ages.
  • Develop new solutions to ensure that the most vulnerable have access to period products, including the homeless, low-income girls and women, artists, veterans, sex workers, LGBTQ+, and at-risk youth.

In recent years, The Flow Initiative has regularly partnered with HealthierJC to conduct period poverty and menstrual equity workshops in schools and community organizations, specifically targeting undeserved subgroups like students, women, low-income residents, and minorities.

How was the Mini-Grant Used?

The HealthierJC mini-grant was used to advance menstrual equity awareness and education in the following areas:

Menstrual Advocacy and Product Distribution | Collaborated with several Jersey City organizations to enable The Flow Initiative to participate in a series of local 2023 events.  These events focused on engaging female Jersey City residents to share knowledge, build the brand, market the cause, and distribute free menstrual products to event attendees.

  • Jointly hosted a Back to School event with HealthierJC. Over 135 young females participated in this health education event, featuring a myriad of workshop topics like Menstruation, Period Poverty and Menstrual Equity conducted by Horizon BC/BS nurse.  A school nurse coached students on how to ask for menstrual products, and 20,000 menstrual products were distributed to student attendees. 
  • Participated in a Back to School event sponsored by the Jersey City Housing Authority/City Crossing, where 5,000 menstrual products were donated to the study body.
  • Worked with the SALT Foundation to distribute 10,000 menstrual products at Lisa’s Networking Group in Greenville.
  • Donated 8,000 menstrual products to the Jersey City Free Public Library, Five Corners branch.
  • Distributed 1000 incontinence pads to the Catherine Todd Senior Living Center.

Menstrual Equity Legislation in NJ | After chairing the Thrive NJ Coalition subcommittee and successfully lobbying for the passage of A1349/Free Menstrual Products in Schools bill, The Flow Initiative attended the gubernatorial signing of this bill in Trenton.  

Global UN Menstrual Equity Policy | The Flow Initiative received a prestigious invitation to attend the first ever menstrual health workshop at the United Nations General Assembly 78th Session in collaboration with Pandemic Periods and UNFPA (The United Nations Population Fund)

With mini-grant funding, The Flow Initiative distributed more than 40,000 menstrual supplies in Jersey City during summer 2023, serving some 1,600 menstruating individuals in Jersey City.  This group of individuals consisted of minorities, women, veterans, seniors, individuals with disabilities, low-income residents, unhoused persons, children, domestic abuse survivors, immigrants, and refugees in all six Jersey City wards.

Making a Difference…

“Most people are unaware of the stigma and inequality that menstruating women and girls experience.
The Flow Initiative is dedicated to informing the public and advocating for change.”
— Maryanne Kelleher, Director, Partnership for a HealthierJC

A single mother with four daughters said she has to go without menstrual products to assure that her daughters have what they need to go to school. She was in tears because, with the help of the Flow Initiative, she no longer had to worry about menstrual items for her entire family for the next three months.  It is women like this whom The Flow Initiative seeks to help and inspire. 

“I can’t stress enough the value of the Flow Initiative’s work to pass legislation that seeks to abolish period poverty,” Kelleher said. “This natural biological function can give rise to discriminatory practices that affect health and well-being.”

She praised the initiative for its life-enhancing mission and the innovative ways it seeks to achieve it.

For more information, visit The Flow Initiative.