SHAWNEE, Oklahoma - 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.

Serving students from 17 different tribes, Pleasant Grove School nurse Rhiannon Webb sees a bevy of bumps and bruises, but some of her most common cases are girls on their period. “Several times I’ve had to call parents and say we need a change of clothes,” she says, “and trying to find jackets so they can just cover themselves enough to get to my office.”

Webb says many students had been wearing their sanitary products too long or using wads of toilet paper instead.

A month ago, though, all of that changed. The Kwek Society, formed last year, is on a mission to provide products to Native girls nationwide.

Pleasant Grove is their first stop in Oklahoma. Webb says the girls “are able to get what they need in a very discreet way and then go on about their day as if nothing is going on.”

It is a relief for impoverished families who are faced with hard choices. “When parents have to make the decision, ‘am I going to buy a loaf of bread, or am I going to buy a box of tampons or pads?’ the bread wins out,” Webb says.

Girls also admit to Webb that they are embarrassed about their cycle, so their parents are oftentimes not even aware of their needs.

That is why Citizen Potawatomi Nation language aid Enedina Banks is working to educate students about the significance of a woman's power. She held a workshop with the girls when the donation arrived in November, “trying to get back to the cultural knowledge of our moon time and just getting them connected with that again,” she says, “because that’s going to give them their self-esteem and give them their voice back.” 

Because of these efforts, the girls here are already on their way to converting shame to success. To learn more about this program and the Kwek Society, click here.

Editor’s Note: News 9 is part of a local initiative that brings all of our local media outlets together to give Oklahoma a United Voice in promoting a healthy dialogue on race. To see more stories, visit UnitedVoiceOK.org.