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“It’s a dignity issue”: Inside the movement tackling period poverty in the U.S.

The Kwek Society and founder Eva Marie Carney were featured in an article about the movement to stop period poverty in Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Harvard Public Health newsletter. Among Eva’s comments were:
“The systemic discrimination against indigenous people, starting long ago with the U.S. government forcing many of us into more remote parts of the country, creates more of a poverty issue and more need. The cost of taking care of your period is much greater than it is if you are in a more populated area.”

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Inspiring Conversations with Eva Marie Carney of The Kwek Society

The Kwek Society founder, Eva Marie Carney, had an inspiring conversation with Voyage Raleigh about ending period poverty. Among Eva’s comments were:

A key point we want to stress to your readers is that “period poverty” is not an Indigenous problem — it is a poverty problem, but the systemic discrimination against Indigenous people, starting long ago with the U.S. government forcing many Indigenous people (including my relatives) into more remote parts of the country, creates more of a poverty issue and more need. “Period poverty” exists throughout the United States — in any school where some of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, one will find period poverty. Stocking school bathrooms and locker rooms with free period supplies is, in our view, the best way to address this in a way that maintains dignity and reduces period stigma.

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Eva Marie Carney: Ending Period Poverty, One Moon Time Bag At A Time

Eva Marie Carney tells us about ending period poverty through the Kwek Society.

As many as one in three students in the US suffer “period poverty,” meaning they don’t have period care items to take care of their periods. The products are super expensive and families struggle to pay for rent, food, and transportation costs and so often can’t afford to buy tampons or pads. The result? Students stay home from school when on their periods, risk their health by using supplies for too long, or use make-do supplies like toilet paper or rags. What The Kwek Society does is get period care items into schools with significant indigenous populations so that all students affected can stay in school and maintain good health and sense of dignity when on their periods. We also educate students about periods and puberty.

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The Kwek Society Fights to End Period Poverty

One in three students in America leaves or misses school entirely because they don’t have access to period products.

In 2017, a real-world example came to light. Students at a school on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota were reportedly missing up to a week of school each time they had their period. This adds up to one quarter of the school year.

When Eva Marie Carney heard this, it angered her. How could this be happening in the United States? To Carney, who herself has dual citizenship (the United States and the Potawatomi Nation), the struggles of indigenous women are all too familiar. To add missing school to the mix was the turning point for her.

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The Kellie Jo Show featuring The KWEK Society founder, Eva Carney

The Kellie Jo Show features The Kwek Society Founder, Eva Marie Carney, whose mission to end period poverty in Indian Country continues.

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In 2017 Eva Marie Carney read a news story that changed her life. I invited her to share how being open to new information — and how allowing that information to influence not only her thinking but also her actions — has enabled her to change other lives as well.

This is an exploration of curiosity, very much as-applied. Curiosity, in this case, in service of ending period poverty.

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The Kwek Society, founded in 2018 by CPN District 2 Legislator and humanitarian immigration lawyer Eva Marie Carney, is a nonprofit organization addressing period poverty in Indian Country. In 2022, the organization saw several significant expansions in partnerships and services rendered as well as media coverage and recognition for their work. 

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The Kwek Society Bridges Period Poverty Gap for Native American Students

By Jenna Kunze

When 13-year-old Gia Mendoza began seventh-grade last year at Ignacio Middle School in southwest Colorado, she noticed something was missing from the bathrooms. While the school regularly provided toilet paper, soap, and paper towels, free and comfortable period products were noticeably absent.

“Our school didn’t really talk about it,” Mendoza, a descendant of the Chiricahua Nation, told Native News Online. Ignacio Middle School had only cardboard applicator tampons that cost a quarter each from bathroom vending machines, making the products undesirable and harder to access.

Girls — including herself — were missing school because of painful periods and a lack of access to free supplies at school.

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‘Moon Time Bags’ Fight Period Poverty While Honoring Sacred Native Traditions.

By Leah Rodriguez

When immigration lawyer Eva Marie Carney worked in securities and corporate law, she never imagined she would someday start a nonprofit to address period poverty.

It wasn’t until 2017, when Carney read an article about students at Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, that she learned students missed school due to menstruation in her own backyard.

A dual citizen of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and the US, Carney decided to channel her shock into action and launched the Kwek Society in 2018. The women-led and managed organization, named “Kwe’k” after the word for “women” in the Potawatomi language, helps ensure that students and community members can thrive by distributing period products in 12 US states and one Canadian province. 

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The Kwek Society and Aunt Flo - Some Native Americans pay up to 86% more for period products and there's something you can do to help.
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Fight Period Poverty During Native American Heritage Month

By Tyler Donohue

This month is Native American Heritage Month, and like many people across the United States, some Native girls and people with periods struggle to afford period products – and at times have to decide between buying period products and other basic necessities.

Many years ago, I was driving through the southwestern corner of South Dakota – I watched the sprawling prairies change as I entered the Badlands, and then found myself on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The Pine Ridge Reservation is home to the Oglala Lakota Nation, and covers a total land area of 2.1 million acres – making it one of the largest reservations in the United States.

I was blown away by the prices of even the most basic items when I stopped for gas. A bag of chips – usually priced around two dollars – was nearly six dollars on the reservation. Not to mention basic necessities like tampons, pads, and soap, which also had astronomical prices. 

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What is Period Poverty? Native American women work to address issue.

By Meghan Holohan

During class, Tierra Baird felt her period start and rushed to the bathroom. She tried to get a tampon from the machine, but it was broken. Baird, a sophomore at the time, didn’t have one because her family couldn’t afford them.

“I couldn’t access tampons,” the now 17-year-old high school senior told TODAY. “Money was a little bit tight. I would ask some friends for tampons when I needed them. I would be too embarrassed so it was something I wouldn’t talk about.”

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Indigenous-led Nonprofit Distributes Period Products to Native Students in Wyoming

The Kwek Society receives national recognition for its work

By Kristi Eaton

Walmart Inc. and Always have named an Indigenous-led nonprofit organization that seeks to eliminate period poverty as Wyoming’s “period hero.” The Kwek Society was among 50 period heroes to help donate 2.5 million pads to students nationwide.

According to the Alliance for Period Supplies, one in four teens has missed class due to a lack of access to products. In Wyoming, where one out of seven women and girls between the ages of 12 and 44 live below the federal poverty line, the organization reported, products can be out of reach.

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Native Oklahoma Magazine

The Kwek Society seeks to end period poverty for Indigenous students.

By Natasha Lovato

Eva Marie Carney founded The Kwek Society in 2018 to provide indigenous girls with access to period products, and the need for their help is constant. “When I realized girls miss daily life and activities because they don’t have period supplies, it made me angry ethically and it made me angry as a feminist — I had to do something,” Carney said. Carney shared that she saw the problem within her own community in Washington D.C. but that rural areas suffer the most with period poverty because there is less access to stores and the internet for online orders.

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Native Oklahoma Magazine

This Native Women-Led Nonprofit Is Providing Period Supplies to Indian Country

Even before the pandemic exacerbated inequities, one in five teens in the U.S. struggled to afford period products or were not able to purchase them at all, according to at least one study commissioned by a nonprofit organization and a period underwear company.

Eva Marie Carney, a citizen of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, started the nonprofit The Kwek Society in 2018 with the goal of supporting Native students with their menstrual product needs in a dignified and celebratory way.

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Providing access to period supplies in indian country.

By Kristi Eaton

When Eva Marie Carney read a news story a few years ago about period poverty in Native North America, she became aware of an issue she hadn’t considered. She knew she needed to use the resources she was tapped into to help young menstruators who are Native or live in predominantly Native communities. 

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Days for Girls Podcast

Menstrual Equity in Tribal Nations with Eva Marie Carney

The Days for Girls Podcast

Learn more about our work in schools and communities across the United States and Canada, and what motivates us, during this podcast interview conducted by the Communicators Director of our ally, DaysforGirlsUSA.

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The 19th

‘It cannot be this way’: What is period poverty and how to solve it

Alexa Mikhail

Before the pandemic, Chantal Alison-Konteh, an 8th grade teacher,  noticed that her students would sometimes sneak a few tampons and pads from the school bathrooms — not only for themselves, but also for their siblings, mothers or caregivers at home.

New York is only 1 of 4 current states where public schools provide free menstrual products. And even so, Alison-Konteh has heard students and parents claim that school bathrooms still had machines charging 25 or 50 cents for products.

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Women Crush Wednesday

Working for Women

Our founder was honored to be the “Women for Wednesday” crush of Working for Women. Working for Women elevates women who are economically marginalized to financial independence by transforming the way businesses support nonprofits working for women. We at The Kwek Society are fully behind that!


Meet the Women Fighting to End Period poverty on Native American reservations

By Katherine

An organization called the Kwek Society, named for the Potawatomi word for “woman”, is tackling period poverty on reservations. Their donations of menstrual products are helping provide girls at Red Cloud with the menstrual products — and dignity — that they deserve.

The Kwek Society was founded by 60-year-old 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. 

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United Voice: Donation of Feminine Hygiene Products Helps Native American Girls in School

A recent donation of feminine hygiene products to a school in Shawnee is making a big impact in the lives of girls there. Pleasant Grove caters to mostly Native American students, and the help is especially needed in their community.

Every woman has faced the fear of her first cycle, but imagine that being compounded by not having the access to the products you need.

Read more and watch TB news clip

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Kwek Society recognized with Power, Together award in Iceland

The Reykjavík Global Forum Women Leaders presented The Kwek Society (Kwe’k means “women” in Potawatomi) with the Power, Together award in November 2019. Founded by Tribal member and Citizen Potawatomi Nation District 2 Legislator Eva Marie Carney, the nonprofit was one of 25 organizations recognized for their dedication to ending period poverty during the three-day conference in Iceland. Read full article

The Kwek Society helps Native women

By Rich Tupica

The Kwek Society (Kwe’k means “women” in Potawatomi) wakes up every morning with the same mission: supplying Native women with products they desperately need.  The nonprofit, which formed in 2018, provides tampons, pads and other menstrual supplies to Native American communities across the country who lack access to these expensive products. The organization also provides educational materials and raises awareness about period poverty in Native American communities. 

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The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development

Indigenous women are showing up all over Indian Country to assist their communities and other Native nations during the pandemic. Follow these grassroots, organizational, and governmental efforts and learn more about their critical and courageous work!

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