“Kwe’k” means “women” in the Potawatomi language. We are The Women’s Society.
Here’s what we are all about.
The Kwek Society provides moon time bags and educational materials, pads, tampons, liners and underwear to Native American students and communities without ready access to these expensive menstrual supplies.
We are guided by the needs of the individual communities we support.
We support and trumpet the successes of Native Americans and fulfill their other material needs as our funds and time allow.
And we work to raise awareness to the inequities experienced by those we help.
In mid-March Covid-19 shut down all of the schools we support, but our distributions did not stop. A portion of our schools (located in New Mexico, South Dakota and Wyoming) continued to support students through food distributions and brought our supplies to the distribution sites. We resupplied those schools through the spring. We also began distributions to Navajo families through our contact with the Navajo Nation government and included masks sewn by our donors in some of those shipments. We built on our relationship with a global organization focused on ending period poverty, Days for Girls International, and facilitated DfGI’s distribution of thousands more masks to the Navajo Nation through, among others, the Indigenous Goddess Gang.
During this time we also secured our first commitment of monthly support from a foundation, The JJ Metta Memorial Foundation, which is operated from the United States but – until we connected — focused exclusively on the needs of students in India. In addition to obtaining the foundation’s monthly support, The Kwek Society facilitated the foundation’s direct shipments of masks and period products to the Navajo Nation.
We also were selected this spring as the 2020 Outreach Project by the Diocese of Springfield (Episcopal Church), Episcopal Church Women. Church members are being encouraged to pray for the young girls and women we support and also to donate generously to support us.
And this spring we got some media attention. Native News Online reported on us, as did a DC-Maryland-Virginia based news program. And The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development wrote about us in mid-June as one of a number of indigenous women-run groups doing “critical and courageous work” to assist Native communities and Native nations during the pandemic.
Numbers: We made 34 separate shipments of period supplies between March and June, providing a total of 202 pairs underwear, 53,700 pads, 90,929 liners, 9,665 tampons and 500 masks. Most of the 53,700 pads were donated by the Alliance For Period Supplies and were shipped out directly to New Mexico for distribution to Navajo communities hard hit by Covid-19. Early in 2020 we were invited to become an Allied Program of the Alliance. The Alliance not only got us the huge pad donation, but has provided us with technical support. We also facilitated donations of another 6,000 masks and hundreds of period supplies, through the groups Protect Native Elders, Days for Girls International and The JJ Metta Memorial Foundation.
We serve indigenous students in both the United States and Canada.
Here’s what one school nurse reported back to us after we began working with her students:
As a school Nurse here at Wyoming Indian Middle and High School I want to thank you for your donations of supplies to our student body. The Kwek Society has given us an opportunity to help young ladies during such a sensitive time of change. So many of our students have limited access to female care products, this program has enhanced and enriched our ability to provide needed care within our schools. The students often share stories with me about their struggles and their needs, through this I am able to educate and share much needed supplies discreetly with the use of the moon time bags. I appreciate all your efforts to help the young ladies of our community. Jessica Cecrle, RN
How You Can Support Our Work. Donations by check made out to The Kwek Society can be mailed to 3469 North Edison Street, Arlington, VA 22207. Here are online options for donating —
- Donate to us through the PayPal Giving Fund here. When you donate through this link, PayPal pays all fees and we get 100% of your donation.
- Make a monthly donation for a monthly need. You can donate through
The Kwek Society on GoFundMeCharity, through Network for Good
or through Great Nonprofits. All three have one-time and monthly options ($10 monthly minimum), and take processing fees from your contribution before disbursing to us. Monthly donations are so appreciated, as they give us stability as we work to meet the monthly period supplies needs of students. Give a donation monthly in celebration of your own moon time or that of students in your life!
- Text to Give: Simply text (855) 579-9639 with the amount: e.g., GIVE 50. The first time you text-donate to us you’ll be asked for your credit card or bank information. That takes a minute to provide (you can scan your card, e.g.,) and won’t be requested during future donations. An almost-effortless way to help #KwekSociety support students with period supplies.
- Contact us about providing a cash or in-kind donation, and if you want to donate your time to our work. We are always looking for volunteers to host supply drives for us — these are a great way to grow our inventory of period supplies for distribution and also get information about us out to many communities. And we always welcome donations of moon time bags from those of you with sewing skills. (Please visit the Moon Time Bags page on this website for details and an instructional video.) We encourage new ideas for how you can help us that we haven’t thought about; please connect and share them!
- Designate us as the charity you support when shopping via AmazonSmile. We get .5% of your purchase price and you get the joy of knowing you are helping support Native American students. Just go to AmazonSmile, select The Kwek Society to receive your (no-cost-to-you) donations from eligible purchases, and then every eligible purchase you make at smile.amazon.com will result in a donation to us.
- You also can send supplies directly to the schools listed on our “Our School and Nonprofit Partners” page. Amazon is the best option for getting supplies to our rural school partners. Our School and Nonprofit Partners page includes contact persons and addresses. We ask that you include in a gift message the fact that you are donating because of The Kwek Society. If you email us about your contribution, we will send you bountiful thank yous and a tax receipt.
More About What We Do. A comprehensive overview of our work, by Health and Wellness writer Meghan Holohan, was posted to Today.com on April 30, 2019 — What is period poverty? Native American women work to address issue — can be read here. Other coverage can be found on one of our favorite blogs, A Mighty Girl, here. Here’s an excerpt from that post, Meet The Women Fighting To End Period Poverty On Native American Reservations:
The Kwek Society was founded by Eva Marie Carney last September, in response to the shocking rate of period poverty on Native American reservations. A 2017 survey by the brand Always found that one in five American girls left or missed school because they didn’t have period products. There are no statistics to show what the rate is on reservations, but that same year, then-17-year-old Dominique Amiotte said that as many as half of her friends couldn’t afford tampons or pads. The average per capita income on the Pine Ridge Reservation is $9,150, and the nearest Wal-Mart is an hour away. Instead, girls pay a premium for their menstrual products: the Huffington Post found that a box of 20 tampons cost $7.39 at the gas station store closest to Dominique’s school, Crazy Horse School, while at Wal-Mart, a box of 18 sells for $3.97. “The cost of period supplies is very high and the money to pay for them isn’t there,” Carney tells TODAY.
The price of these products means that many girls don’t have access to their own supply. “Money was a little bit tight,” Tierra admits of the time she was caught without a pad; her parents were divorcing and the family was struggling financially. “I would ask some friends for tampons when I needed them.” But she certainly didn’t feel comfortable telling other adults about the situation: “I would be too embarrassed so it was something I wouldn’t talk about.” For Carney, the result is unsurprising: “[Girls] are suffering the indignities of using things other than pads or tampons like wadded up toilet paper,” she says, “[or they] are missing school for all or part of the time that they have their periods.” Julia Chipps, the school nurse at Crazy Horse School, says it’s hard to see girls using makeshift materials or walking around with stained clothing: “They shouldn’t feel like they’re being punished for being a girl.”
“I’ve always supported efforts to get supplies to women in impoverished nations,” Carney told the Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s newspaper, “but [I] thought, ‘My goodness, Native American girls’ lack of supplies is very close to home, and I don’t know anything about it. How is that possible?” The Kwek Society collects donations of funds or menstrual products, and approaches schools, tribal councils, and other groups to ask if they could use supplies like pads and tampons. The organization is less than a year old, but it has already donated either products or funds in 23 schools and communities in three different states. Carney had just approached Red Cloud when she found out that Tierra was working on a senior project designed to make menstrual products more accessible. Tierra won a $1,000 grant that allowed her to install dispensing machines in the school’s bathrooms; donations from the Kwek Society filled them. “It was absolutely perfect,” says Huerter. “It is just aligning really well with what the students want and need.”
Interested in knowing more about our work?
— You can watch this news piece from News9 in Oklahoma: United Voice: Donation of Feminine Hygiene Products Helps Native American Girls in School.
— You can read all about us here, in the January 2019 edition of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s newspaper. A December 2019 piece reporting on the Citizen Potawatomi women who created the pattern for our moon time bags is here.
— You can find detailed information about our mission, our accomplishments so far, who is on our Board of Directors — and more — on GuideStar, where you’ll also find a DONATE button. And please explore our website, friend us on Facebook, follow our progress.
— You can read the online piece that inspired formation of The Society: Eleanor Goldberg’s piece, Why Many Native American Girls Skip School When They Have Their Periods, can be found here.
Your Donations are Tax-Deductible and Super Appreciated. Our goals are to end period poverty for those we help, and to celebrate, and foster the academic and other success of, Native American students. In April 2018 we obtained 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status from the IRS. Your donations are tax-deductible pursuant to IRS rules.
Through social media and personal engagement we also are educating North Americans about the needs, and the accomplishments, of Native Americans.