What we do.
The Kwek Society was founded by Eva Marie Carney in early 2018. Eva is a dual citizen of the United States and the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, an elected legislator for the Nation, and a human rights lawyer. The Kwek Society works to shine a light on and to address menstrual and other inequities in Native communities.
Eva’s eyes were opened to the shocking rate of period poverty on rural Native reservations when she read Why Many Native American Girls Skip School When They Have Their Periods, by Eleanor Goldberg.
In the piece, a Pine Ridge Reservation student reports that about half of her friends can’t afford tampons or period pads so they have to skip school for as a long as a week when they are on their periods, and then fall farther and farther behind in class. Eva found untenable this injustice of missing out on school due to a lack of access to period products. She launched The Kwek Society with a particular focus on supplying Native American students in rural areas with period products. (“Kwe’k” means “women” in the Potawatomi language.)
One in Four Women Struggled to Purchase Period Products this year.
An essential need.
Many Native people refer to the time of menstruation as their “moon time.” Early on, Eva worked with several fellow Potawatomi kwe’k to develop The Kwek Society’s signature “moon time bags.” These are colorful cotton bags sewn by supporters and stuffed with pads or tampons and liners. The bags are a discreet way to keep supplies on hand when one’s moon time approaches. You can read more about how we developed our moon time bags here.
Since 2018, The Kwek Society has expanded to provide period supplies to students living in Native cities and suburbs and to get supplies to other Native community members, including unhomed individuals, who can’t afford these expensive necessities. We believe that every person deserves sufficient supplies to maintain dignity and celebrate their strength during their moon time. No one should have to miss school or work or activities of daily life when they are on their periods, and no one should suffer the indignity of stained clothing, or use period supplies for longer than intended and risk their health due to insufficient supplies.
We are very small and all volunteer (except we pay our data entry intern). A majority of our board members are Native Americans. We believe that our respect for tribal traditions has been integral to our growth.
We interact with leaders of schools and governments and community-based organizations in Native American communities to meet the specific period product needs of each community. Our objective is to support the dignity of each person we serve and to meet individual preferences for period supplies whenever possible.
Meet the need.
We at The Kwek Society are focused on supplying Native students and communities the period products they need to maintain their dignity and celebrate their strength and their moon times. We collaborate with schools and Native programs across North America, in rural areas, suburbs and cities, to eliminate period poverty among Native Americans. We educate about moon time as a time for celebration and we work to support the dignity and strength of all we serve.
The Kwek Society is a strong force pertaining to the issue of period poverty. Our school district serves a large Native American population and the grants of moon time bags have helped these students be more present in school as well as open doors to more conversations educating young students about puberty.
The Kwek Society provides so much more than just grants, they are encouraging and share their expertise to expand services to all menstruating students in various ways.
Dedicated to impact.
The Kwek Society is committed to ending period poverty in Native communities. We are also committed to thriving as a respected and well-run non-profit performing with transparency and excellence.
Here are some of our milestones to date:
- Early 2018: We obtained our 501(c)(3) public charity tax-exempt status from the IRS.
- Early 2019: We earned GuideStar’s highest level of recognition – its Platinum Seal of Transparency. We continue to maintain that recognition.
- Early 2019: We received our first donation from a sovereign Native Nation, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi.
- Summer 2019: We received a substantial in-kind donation of tampons and pads purchased and delivered by the Citizen Potawatomi Nation to 20 schools in Oklahoma and New Mexico, which allowed us to proceed with new partnerships, knowing the 20 schools who got CPN donations were taken care of for the school year.
- Late 2019: We were recognized at the Reykjavik Global Forum – World Leaders with the Power Together Award.
- Late 2019: We were awarded our first public grant — a $2,500 Winter Assistance grant by MissionBox, an online hub for nonprofits — which we used to purchase a special supplement of period supplies for students in 15 of the schools and programs we support, to eliminate their concerns about addressing their moon times in a dignified way while on holiday break and out of reach of their schools’ supplies.
- Early 2020: The Kwek Society was invited to become an Allied Program of the Alliance for Period Supplies, a national organization working to ensure that individuals in need have access to essential period products required to participate fully in daily life.
- Summer 2020: We received our first foundation grant from The Burkehaven Family Foundation.
- Late 2020: The Sparkjoy Foundation awarded us a sizable grant and we added to our board of directors an Ontario, Canada-based First Nations kwe (woman).
- First half of 2021: We expanded our reach across North America with the addition of four new Canadian-based partners, new school partners in Arizona and New Mexico, and a community renewal non-profit in Oklahoma, and we expanded our Board of Directors. We are 10 women strong, and 8 of us are Native kwe’k (women).
- Second half of 2021: We secured our first multi-year grant from The Burkehaven Family Foundation, giving us the cushion needed to operate, expand and innovate. By late September, we added another First Nations partner situated in Canada, along with a tribally operated school in Iowa, two tribally operated health clinics in Oklahoma and an additional school partner in South Dakota. We continue our outreach to school and community leaders.
- End of 2021: We added a Navajo boarding school in Farmington, New Mexico, and cemented relationships with New Mexico partners during our site visits in November 2021. We began distributing washable “Glad Rags” period pads to several of our New Mexico partners—hoping this will foster our sustainability (and reflect our accountability to our Mother Earth). We shared widely the UNICEF-developed OKY period tracking and education app that we hope will be downloaded to many of “our” students’ phones in the new year. With the help of the Alliance for Period Supplies and by U by Kotex®, in December 2021 we showered tampons on Native schools and communities across Northern Maine. And we received generous donations and commitments for future profits, from so many throughout the last quarter of 2021, including from It’s August, PERIOD Ontario, Chingona Makes, and thicfigtattoo. We look forward to sustaining our partnerships and adding new partnerships in 2022!
Founder & President Eva Marie Carney, fourth from right, receiving The Kwek Society’s Power Together award from the Reykjavik (Iceland) Global Forum – World Leaders in November 2019, alongside twenty-four other organisations using our Power, Together to end the stigma of menstruation that still plagues society.
Your donations fund our critical work to support dignity and affirm Native people. They are tax-deductible pursuant to IRS rules. We stretch every dollar to the limit: our founder and everyone else on our board volunteers their time, and we tirelessly pursue donations of period supplies, postage, and more to reduce expenses.
You can find the most up-to-date information on our partnerships, operations and impact by reviewing our GuideStar Nonprofit Profile.
You can support our mission directly with your donations, checks, packages and correspondence to:
The Kwek Society
Attn: Eva Marie Carney
P.O. Box 5595
Arlington, VA 22205
501(c)(3) number (EIN): 82-4369803
If shipping products via UPS or FedEx, please email us for a private address.