Social Period e.V. is ded­ic­ated to the social chal­lenge of period poverty. The Ger­man non-profit organ­iz­a­tion offers a simple but effect­ive solu­tion for the dona­tion of men­strual products to people in need. For this pur­pose, dona­tion boxes are set up in a highly vis­ible place in pub­lic spaces. The first boxes have already been installed in selec­ted gro­cery stores in Ber­lin, Ger­many. Col­lec­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion to the indi­vidual insti­tu­tions is handled by the organ­iz­a­tion. Undine and Katja, the two who foun­ded the organ­iz­a­tion in 2019, are the faces behind Social Period. I am so excited that the they have writ­ten a guest art­icle about the his­tory of period-sham­ing and the related period poverty as well as their organ­iz­a­tion for Vul­vani plat­form. Have fun reading!

Social Period, Perioden-Verein, Periodenarmut,, Perioden-Armut period poverty, obdachlose Menschen, Obdachlosigkeit, Menstruation auf der Straße, Kostenlose Tampons, Gratis-Tampons, Period Shaming, Undine Mothes, Katja Dill, Stigmatisierung der Periode, Berlin, Vulvani

Photo Cred­its: Social Period e.V.

Period-Sham­ing in history

Medi­cine and the ana­tom­ical dis­cov­ery of the body that goes with it has been dom­in­ated by the male gaze for cen­tur­ies. Ana­tom­ical draw­ings, clin­ical stud­ies and phar­ma­ceut­ic­als were and are made by cis-men for cis-men. As a res­ult, the mis­un­der­stood bio­lo­gical female body has been made into the ‘other’ of the stand­ard­ized bio­lo­gical male body – always accom­pan­ied by stig­mat­iz­a­tion and des­pise. Thus, for example, the idea of men­strual blood as poison is deeply rooted in cul­tural his­tory. Pil­nus the Elder (23-79 A.D.) already claimed the following:

“The woman with men­strual flow spoils har­vests […], she des­troys gar­dens, des­troys seeds, makes the fruit fall off and kills the bees; if she touches the wine, it becomes vin­egar; the milk spoils and curdles.’

Period dis­crim­in­a­tion: From past to present

It was not until 1872 that the egg was dis­covered by Karl Ernst von Baer, pav­ing the way for a deeper under­stand­ing of the men­strual cycle. How­ever, this does not mean an end to dis­crim­in­a­tion. In 1920, the Aus­trian phys­i­cian Béla Schick pub­lished his meno­toxin hypo­thesis in a spe­cial­ist journal, in which he took up Pilnu’s thoughts again – a view that was only refuted in 1985. In 2015, Instagram’s cen­sor­ship policy gained sad notori­ety. Images from Rupi Kaur’s photo series ‘Period’, in which she stages her­self with men­strual spots on her clothes, have been repeatedly deleted from the platform.

But there is hope…

At the same time, there are devel­op­ments that give hope for the future. These include Scotland’s decision to make tam­pons and pads avail­able free of charge in pub­lic places, such as com­munity centres, youth clubs and phar­ma­cies from 2020. The abol­i­tion of the so-called ‘tam­pon tax’ in Ger­many is also a good sym­bol. But not every­one bene­fits equally from these polit­ical reforms. Cer­tain groups of people who do not visit these facil­it­ies or who have little of the mostly min­imal reduced costs for men­strual products are still excluded from the pos­it­ive changes: the home­less and people without shel­ter.

Period poverty in Germany

The Ger­man Fed­eral Work­ing Group for Assist­ance to the Home­less states that approx­im­ately 100,000 womxn are home­less in Ger­many. And the trend is rising. Accord­ing to estim­ates of the Strassen­feger e.V., about 11,100 womxn are cur­rently liv­ing on the streets under pre­cari­ous con­di­tions only in Ber­lin. 70 per­cent of them are of child­bear­ing age (18-40) and have their peri­ods reg­u­larly or at some point. Many of them have no or only very dif­fi­cult access to men­strual products.

Social Period, Perioden-Verein, Periodenarmut, Perioden-Armut period poverty, obdachlose Menschen, Obdachlosigkeit, Menstruation auf der Straße, Kostenlose Tampons, Gratis-Tampons, Period Shaming, Undine Mothes, Katja Dill, Stigmatisierung der Periode, Berlin, free tampons, bleeding while being homeless, Vulvani

Photo Cred­its: Social Period e.V.

Fight­ing with dona­tion boxes against period poverty

Real­iz­ing our priv­ileges, we, two friends who have always known each other and who have grown up together, foun­ded the organ­iz­a­tion Social Period e.V. in 2019. Social Period is com­mit­ted to equal access to men­strual products. Long con­ver­sa­tions with social insti­tu­tions in Ber­lin that sup­port home­less and people without shel­ter have made us aware of the whole range of the prob­lem and how little is done polit­ic­ally for it. In order to tackle the prob­lem of period poverty and to coun­ter­act the men­strual taboo, we came up with the idea of set­ting up dona­tion boxes for men­strual products in Ber­lin. The dona­tions are then for­war­ded to social institutions.

When it comes to pas­sion pro­jects, every­one has to help

Although the fin­an­cing of the pro­ject is prov­ing to be dif­fi­cult, we are on the right track. Our first boxes are at Edeka in Ber­lin. And even more are planned as soon as the fin­an­cing for the con­struc­tion of the boxes is secured through our fun­drais­ing cam­paign. We are espe­cially touched by all the sup­port we receive from friends* on this jour­ney. They have intro­duced us to import­ant part­ners, worked hard to cre­ate our web­site, sup­por­ted us at edu­ca­tional events with the Strassen­feger e. V. or built our first boxes. This proves us that if we are strong together, we can do any­thing. We just have to want it! After all, period poverty should not be a social chal­lenge, but should be under­stood as a social respons­ib­il­ity. We are against the period taboo  – for equal oppor­tun­it­ies & solidarity! 

Any kind of sup­port helps in the fight against period poverty

Social Period has cur­rently set up a fun­drais­ing cam­paign on Start­next to fin­ance the con­struc­tion of their dona­tion boxes. They are happy about every dona­tion. Feel free to visit the web­site or fol­low the organ­isa­tion on Ins­tagram to stay up to date in the fight against period poverty.

Social Period, Perioden-Verein, Periodenarmut,, Perioden-Armut period poverty, obdachlose Menschen, Obdachlosigkeit, Menstruation auf der Straße, Kostenlose Tampons, Gratis-Tampons, Period Shaming, Undine Mothes, Katja Dill, Stigmatisierung der Periode, Berlin, Vulvani
Undine and Katja 
Social Period e.V. | Web­site | + posts

Undine Mothes is a gradu­ate of the Master's pro­gram in Cul­tural Stud­ies and Katja Dill is doing her doc­tor­ate in the field of Gender Stud­ies. Together they foun­ded the non-profit organ­iz­a­tion Social Period e.V. in Ber­lin in 2019 to fight period poverty in Germany.