While campus organizations typically ask for food, clothing and toys during their donation drives for homeless and less fortunate families, Students Towards Educational Progress and Philanthropy (STEPP) is asking students to donate tampons, pads and other feminine hygiene products to women with no access to them.
“People treat feminine hygiene products as if they should be a luxury, but I feel like they are a necessity,” Isha Kamara, a sophomore kinesiology major and STEPP’s public relations co-chair, said. “You can go to other places and get condoms for free, so it would be very helpful if people gave out and donated things like pads and tampons.”
“A woman can’t control whether or not she goes on her period,” Kamara said. “Once you hit puberty, your period lasts until menopause and its really sad that people see it as ‘a woman should have power to control when [her period] comes and when [her period] does not.’”
The organization is also working with A Wider Circle, a nonprofit organization that helps families and individuals transition out of poverty, homelessness and substance abuse. At the end of one of their volunteer program events with the nonprofit, STEPP noticed that there weren’t many feminine hygiene products to distribute.
“Tampons and pads are very expensive and unlike many of the other donations we receive each day, they must be new,” Brittany Kelly, A Wider Circle’s director of volunteer programming, said. “Lately, I have noticed more and more donors organize drives specifically for pads, tampons, but also razors, deodorant and other toiletries. However, those donations don’t last long, and we are always in need of more items for our clients.”
In honor of her birthday, Nov. 16, Isha Kamara wanted to hold a feminine drive to give students the opportunity to donate these essential goods. STEPP stood behind her idea and collectively decided to run the drive until Nov. 30.
STEPP, founded in 2010, is an on-campus organization that mixes community service with step-dancing.
“Our founders wanted to make a community service organization, where we can build lasting relationships with those people that we help,” Cherokee Boddy, a sophomore communications major and STEPP’s vice president, said. “There was also a profound interest in stepping because stepping was mainly for the Greek community here on campus, but we brought it to a place where anyone can step.”
STEPP members noticed that organizations on campus were becoming exclusive and students were only attending events that brought them enjoyment.
“Students only come out for pop culture events, but when it comes to community service events, everyone is quiet about it,” junior English major Alexis Ojeda-Brown said.
Each member participates in other organizations on campus outside of STEPP to help promote their organization, calling STEPP their “main org.” Organizations they are involved in include Black Student Union, PLUMAS, UMSuccess and more.
“We try to make a bridge between each of the organizations, so that we make community service events a common ground,” Boddy said. “We don’t just focus on the black population though, we’re multicultural … we accept everybody. We try to use stepping and the pop culture influence that we have to build the bridge between the community in general.”
This semester, STEPP participated in Preventing Sexual Assault organization’s Slut Walk event. They also performed in Beta Psi Omega’s Concert for the American Cancer Society.
STEPP’s goal is to make UMD more inclusive. “I guess for a lot of people, when they think to help, they only think to help people who look like them,” Kamara said. “STEPP is an organization that looks to make allies with our community, such as the Latinx community [and] Muslim-American community, and we’re not going to try to be exclusive also to our white peers.”
At the end of the semester, STEPP will start its letter drive program, STEPPout, in which it will partner with an organization outside of the community, and pick a certain topic for students to write letters about. Its first partnership will be with the American Indian Student Union to write against the Dakota Access Pipeline Project.
STEPP also wants to expand the organization outside of UMD’s campus and into the nearby communities. “Most of the issues that happen in the world do not just happen on the college campus,” Boddy said. “We want to have step shows for kids in the community, because why not? It’s fun for them.”