Lynette Medley is no stranger to period poverty. As the founder of No More Secrets, a non-profit advocating for menstrual equity in marginalized communities across the USA, she has been in the same situation as many of the people she aims to help. “When my now-ex-husband was incarcerated, my daughter and I went from middle class to poverty in a day. We would use paper towels, or whatever was available, to deal with our menstrual cycles,” she says. In 2021, Lynette created The Spot, a menstrual hub where people in need can go to receive the period products and menstrual health education they need to live with dignity. Kt spoke with Medley about her journey towards activism and what everyone can do in their own lives to help combat period poverty.
How did The Spot come to be?
I was working as a sexual health counselor when learned that some people in my community in Philadelphia were engaging in high risk behaviour and sexual favors to get menstrual products. After that, my life changed. I started organizing drives for menstrual products out of my therapeutic office. At the time it was called ‘Toiletries for Teens’ because a lot of Black charities were not trying to hear about period products. I was buying products and making up little gift bags to give out. Then I learned that some people were having a hard time getting to my office, so that’s when I began driving products to people’s homes. At first I was doing deliveries in the evenings, trying to be discreet, because I thought it was a private matter. But young people started telling me that I needed to post this on Instagram. So my daughter, Nya, posted a video asking for donations and from there it spread like wildfire because people suddenly knew how to get in contact with us.
The pandemic was a rude awakening. We went from doing 80-85 deliveries a week to over 300 in the span of a couple days. It was clear the need for free period products was huge, so we ended up doing a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to open up The Spot, which is the first menstrual hub and uterine wellness center in the nation.
How did it feel when you finally opened up the space?
I was excited but also upset. It’s not that I wanted to found a period poverty organization. It was something I had to do because there was a need. Historically the menstrual space has not been very inclusive of Black and Brown bodies. When we opened, no brand said they wanted to support us with donations, so we started the hashtag #BlackGirlsBleed to call out the racism we were experiencing when we were trying to help communities. As a Black woman in America, I’m used to having to break past ceilings, and unfortunately that’s what I will continue to do.
How do you manage to keep The Spot well-stocked with products?
Most of our funding comes through crowdfunding initiatives or donations. We do have some partnerships where a brand will give us a donation of their products on a monthly or quarterly basis. Sometimes we have people buy things from our Amazon wish list.
How has The Spot impacted people’s lives?
In just over a year, we have distributed 6 million products. We hear from people all the time that we saved their lives. There are some people we serve who do not have running water, or secure housing. Teachers and social workers have come in to tell us they can’t afford to buy period products because they are behind on their rent or utilities. We’re thankful to be that saving grace. We don’t just serve Philadelphia either, we will ship a three month supply of period products to anybody who needs them all over the USA.
What’s something that everyone can do in their daily lives to help combat period poverty?
Talk about it, advocate for it, and educate people. Individuals can’t live or survive without proper menstrual care. Talk about how much [menstrual equity] is a necessity and how it should be covered by government assistance programs. Push your legislators to cover it under Medicaid. Any school that’s getting free lunches, should be able to get free menstrual products for their communities. Also, donate to and support the organizations out there doing this work every day, because people are still suffering in our communities.
Click here to learn more about how you can get involved with the organization or create your own satellite hub.
This interview has been edited and condensed.