Hinako Tanakamaru ’24 has seen the international student experience from nearly every angle. From her time in Japan as an intern assisting international student services, to her own experience as an international student in both high school and college, she knows the challenges and benefits of studying in a culture that is not your own, and of the power a shift in perspective can offer.
When three Millennium Fellows created the Fare Trade program, an initiative aimed at addressing food insecurity on campus, Professor Meghana Nayak, PhD, said, “Every wonderful thing we have at Pace is because a student thought, ‘What if this could happen?’ or because they have taken a great idea to the next level.”
Danielle Harari ’24 is the latest Millennium Fellow to affirm this theory.
“I’ve been taking part in activism for a while and it was starting to just gnaw at me. Protesting wasn’t enough. I wanted to find a way to get more resources, I wanted to be able to do more.” Danielle is a Criminal Justice student with a passion for addressing inequality. When she wanted to expand the scope of her work, the Millennium Fellowship particularly appealed to her. As a Fellow, she is tasked with creating an initiative that addresses one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, with support from professors and other leaders in the field.
Every wonderful thing we have at Pace is because a student thought, ‘What if this could happen?’ or because they have taken a great idea to the next level.
—Meghana Nayak, PhD
Danielle chose the tenth Sustainable Development Goal—reduce inequalities within and among countries—with a focus on period poverty. “Period poverty is lack of access to menstrual products and menstrual hygiene education,” she explains. “Those who menstruate are disproportionately impacted by lack of opportunity, because they have to spend money on menstrual products which aren’t readily available to them.”
Originally, because of her interest in criminal justice, Danielle hoped to address period poverty in prisons, but she wasn’t sure where to start. “It was harder for me to get all the resources needed within prison facilities,” she explains. “As I started my research, I realized the issue was happening within my own community and it would be beneficial to address it here at Pace first.”
Period poverty studies reveal that 64% of low-income menstruators in the US cannot afford menstrual products, and 1 in 4 students struggle to afford menstrual products. Taxed as a luxury item in most states, menstrual products aren’t always accessible to those who may have to prioritize food over period products, increasing potential health risks, such as reproductive and urinary tract infections.
These pain points aren’t just a one-off monthly issue. In fact, according to research by the National Organization for Women, the average cost of menstrual products is about $20 per cycle, or roughly $200–$300 per year. Over a lifetime, that’s nearly $20,000.
Protesting wasn’t enough. I wanted to find a way to get more resources, I wanted to be able to do more.
Danielle presented this research and more virtually at Pace’s third annual Social Justice Week with Sue Maxam, EdD, Pace’s liaison for the Millennium Fellowship. More than 50 people participated, and it quickly grew into a discussion about what they could be doing for their community. “We discussed where we see period poverty in our lives,” Danielle says. “A lot of people there were college students and they said they didn’t see enough menstrual products in the bathrooms on campus. Someone there said they’d be willing to donate products that we could make available on campus. I thought that was an amazing idea, so I looked into how we could do that on a larger scale.”
As Danielle began to discuss tackling period poverty on campus with other Pace Community members, she began to get more input that helped evolve the suggestions of her fellow students. Pace already has menstrual product dispensers installed in every bathroom, but according to Danielle, “We noticed that a lot of the dispensers weren’t getting refilled enough. One student, Tinuade McClish, had the idea to add a QR code to each dispenser that notifies facilities that the dispenser needs to be refilled.” Their new proposal a simple solution to a problem that would likely only be noticed by the people it impacted, brought forward to a student passionate enough to take those steps and make a change.
Danielle’s project is currently underway. She’s created an Amazon Wishlist for those who may not be on campus or prefer the ease of online purchasing to donate period products. On the New York City Campus, students can drop off donations and eventually pick up products at the LGBTQ Center. On the Westchester Campus, donations can be left with the Dean for Students in Kessel Student Center, with picks ups at the food pantry. “I think it’s very beneficial that on the Westchester campus products are being dispersed through the pantry,” Danielle adds, “because it will ensure that those who need them most will have access to them.”
Even in my own community, I’ll never fully understand the extent that period poverty can impact others. But seeing other people’s perspective is always the place to start.
Danielle hasn’t forgotten her original desire to address period poverty in prisons, and she’s hoping to use everything she learns from the on-campus initiative to eventually launch a similar one in prisons. “It’s still a passion of mine,” she says. “I’m taking a course this semester that works with incarcerated people, so I’m really excited for the opportunity to gain that perspective and some resources.”
In the way that it took a student perspective to identify particular needs and solutions on campus, Danielle hopes this unique opportunity to work with incarcerated people through her coursework will help her identify needs and solutions for people who menstruate within a prison.
“I can’t step into the shoes of an incarcerated person as well as I could people within my own community. Even in my own community, I’ll never fully understand the extent that period poverty can impact others,” Danielle says. But she ends on a note of hope. “But seeing other people’s perspective is always the place to start.”
Follow the Pace Period Poverty project on Instagram or email Danielle at email@example.com.
Access the Amazon Wishlist to make an online donation of menstrual products.