After three years of trials and tribulations, the Texas A&M Period Project has officially launched on campus.
The idea of the Period Project was introduced in 2018 by Ashali Chimata, Class of 2019 and former Student Services chair in the Student Senate, in order to serve students with free menstrual products in several buildings on campus. Since Feb. 23, the project has placed dispensers in women’s restrooms in the Memorial Student Center, Wehner, Langford, Blocker and Sterling C. Evans Library.
According to the project’s Twitter, the initiative is not currently permanent, but they are working to show administrators why the Period Project deserves to be a permanent fixture in the campus community.
Chimata’s first step after taking her position in Student Senate was to create this pilot program, which she said involved finding the funding in order to actually implement her idea. The Aggie Green Fund was her solution.
After the lengthy process of applying for the grant was complete, it wasn’t until Chimata was getting ready to put on her graduation gown in May 2019 that she heard back about receiving the funds needed to kickstart the project. But that didn’t stop her from ensuring the project would continue even after she had walked the stage.
“By the time they had gotten back to me that we had received the grant it was so late in the year I thought that in order to really do this, we’d have to start this the following semester and I would be graduating, so it couldn’t be me in charge of this,” Chimata said. “I talked to all of the building proctors, the custodial department and maintenance. I was just trying to get an idea of how to make this happen. I graduate in May 2019, we have this plan and we have this money now. This project was being passed down to the person that was behind me.”
After moving to Washington, D.C. following graduation, Chimata said she started receiving emails from the Green Fund notifying her that requirements for the grant weren’t being met.
“I had moved to D.C., so I wasn’t even in the area anymore, and the Aggie Green Fund was reaching out to me saying that the progress reports weren’t being filled and they had no idea what was going on,’” Chimata said. “That’s when I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to have to step in.’”
After searching far and wide for someone to take over the project properly, Chimata found her new lead project manager in political science senior Erica Pauls.
“So I really threw my weight around,” Chimata said. “I emailed the Speaker [of Student Senate], custodial services and things like that until I finally got Erica to take over the project.”
Pauls said it wasn’t difficult to get the ball rolling again once she was handed the project; however, COVID-19 halted progress once again.
“It was all a matter of handling the logistics and a matter of gathering a really good group of people, and there is a lot in the Senate right now that this is something they’re really passionate about,” Pauls said. “We actually had hoped to have this project out earlier, but because of [COVID-19] that wasn’t possible.”
Pauls said with lower income students not having access to things like sanitary pads and tampons, this creates a barrier in their education and said she’ll do anything to make sure that is eliminated.
“There have been times when Aggies couldn’t afford period products, where they had to use something else or actually leave for home,” Pauls said. “When you think about that, that is a barrier to student success and academic activities that they want to partake in. [The project is] important to me so that any barrier that prevents anyone from being successful is brought down.”
The Period Project is challenging the status quo by bringing an uncomfortable topic to the surface, Chimata said. But the project is also bringing awareness to the fact that not every college student can afford monthly menstrual products.
“I think that a lot of people are ignorant to the amount of poverty that exists among college students,” Chimata said. “If your food isn’t secure, I don’t think it’s crazy for me to assume that you’re having a hard time affording pads and tampons as well. People think, ‘Is this even necessary?’ because of course you can afford that.”