"There has always been a stigma around periods": In conversation with actress Dariana Alvarez on her efforts in putting an end to period poverty
Along with being a rising star, Dariana Alvarez has dipped her toes into making a difference in communities. Through the click of a button, the Diary of a Future President actress recognized period poverty in society. She has since decided to make a difference.
Period poverty refers to the lack of access to menstrual products that low-income women and girls often face.
After recognizing a need in the community, Dariana decided to volunteer with Her Drive. It is a non-profit organization that aims to provide general hygiene and menstrual care products to those who cannot afford them.
In an exclusive interview with SK Pop’s Karishma Rao, Alvarez shared her journey working with the organization to bridge the gap for those who do not have access to women’s hygiene menstrual products.
Dariana Alvarez on period poverty, women’s empowerment, breaking the stigma around periods, and more
Q: Can you narrate the first time you were given a glimpse into period poverty?
Dariana: It all started with a Google search. Looking at period products for the first time and seeing the prices, I wondered how people unable to purchase those items had their periods.
Periods are natural occurrences that affect most women every month. This leads to them needing to purchase menstrual products or even medication for cramps. The same led to an online exploration into what period poverty was and, from there, inspired the work I did with Her Drive.
Q: How did you discover Her Drive?
Dariana: I actually saw a TikTok about it! It just came up on my ‘For You Page’ showing how to apply to host your own drive in your community, and I was interested!
Q: What role did you play in the organization?
Dariana: My position was called the Head Volunteer, so I led the drive. I was the point of contact when we began the campaign. When we had some donations to pick up, I coordinated with the donor and made sure we had someone there to pick it up.
I also attended the Her Drive meetings and created social media posts and posters for publicity.
Q: How did you collect massive piles of women’s hygiene products?
Dariana: The bulk of the hygiene products we collected were from hosting drives at schools. At my school, we had a day with a few other clubs where students could donate hygiene, menstrual products, and bras.
I also had a friend host one by having a box out at her school that allowed people to come and donate as they wished. This also contributed to a lot of the hygiene products we collected.
I also posted on social media and received many products and donated bras from various neighbors in ‘Buy Nothing’ groups. I’m truly grateful that everyone came together to help out!
Q: Do you think corporate funding would have helped reach your goal?
Dariana: I think corporate funding would have helped in my drive! They have contributed to the other campaigns Her Drive has hosted by allowing people to put boxes in their stores to collect donations or even donate menstrual and hygiene products themselves.
This time, I decided not to reach out for my drive as I was focused on collecting through schools and my community.
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced while collecting products for your drive?
Dariana: Being in a pandemic and my biggest worry was publicity. I was afraid that no one would donate once I had the drive. Being able to think on my feet as to who to contact to spread the word was definitely a challenge that I overcame.
The next one was fitting all the donations in our car! We definitely got more items than we could ever imagine, so packing all that up into two vehicles was a bit of a mess. You could not see out of the rearview window!
Q: Why do you think period poverty is a topic which has been avoided by many?
Dariana: There has always been a stigma around periods themselves. They are seen as gross and something we shouldn’t be talking about, but it is something extremely common and natural.
This lack of conversation around periods themselves is what brought to the idea of period poverty, leading to more avoidance. It is also something people don’t always think about.
If you do not have a period or are not aware of the privilege of being able to afford and have access to menstrual hygiene products, you would not think about the unfortunate situations those in period poverty are in.
Q: Do you think low-income women are getting enough help from NGOs in procuring female hygiene products?
Dariana: NGOs are doing a fabulous job at what they do and are definitely out there, helping significantly, but with the word ‘enough’ there, I believe there is a part that is out of their reach. Many are unaware of NGOs or are unable to procure these menstrual hygiene products, still leaving them without the necessary period products.
There needs to be a systematic change to truly help those affected by period poverty that stems from poverty itself.
Q: Eco-friendly period products, including period cups and underwear, have been introduced globally. Did you include the same in the donations?
Dariana: Not many period cups or underwear were donated as not many people were aware of them or were seeking something ‘simpler’ to donate, although we did give the option!
Not only are period cups and underwear eco-friendly, but they are also very beneficial in combating period poverty. Rather than continually purchasing menstrual care products every month, a cup or underwear can last for a much longer time.
Q: What has it been like to work with a group of women to help other women in need?
Dariana: It is truly inspiring and empowering. There are not enough women leaders in this world, and working with women who created their own organization to combat an issue they saw inspires me to chase after my goals.
Representation is important, and seeing that people like me can work together and succeed empowers me to continue in my life.
Q: Can you elaborate on how others can help in eliminating period poverty?
Dariana: You can help diminish period poverty by donating to your local shelter! There are many across the country that could use your donations, whether they be monetary or physical menstrual products, and all of this can help.
In terms of making a systemic change, period poverty stems from poverty itself, so do research and vote on the legislation you agree would help combat poverty!
Q: Michigan recently dumped the ‘tampon tax.’ However, nearly 30 other states in the US continue to have sales tax on feminine products. What are your views on the same?
Dariana: I agree with Michigan on this view and go against the tampon tax. Menstrual products are essential and expensive, and paying a tax on top of that also affects the rates of period poverty.
Like the pink tax, this tax primarily and unfairly targets women/those who get a period.
Q: Are you involved in other charities?
Dariana: I’m also involved with the Little Free Library, a non-profit organization that expands book access for all. I have collected hundreds of books for my Little Free Library and shared them with everyone to inspire readers across town.
They can leave a book and take a book or just take a book and keep it! I do have a Little Free Library Wagon so that I can reach out to more people in different locations.
I also volunteer at the local hospital on the weekends. I have always been interested in medicine, so it’s fantastic to help our essential workers, especially when the number of volunteers has reduced since the pandemic began.
Providing this invaluable service to patients and their families fills me with joy.