We’re thrilled to share our first Cycledork Spotlight, and extra excited it’s on Earth Day because Diandra Kalish is on a mission to raise awareness for earth-friendly reusable menstrual products (aka RUMPs) and to make them more accessible to all through her nonprofit UnTabooed. Like it sounds, the almost one-year-old UnTabooed is about undoing the taboo and ending menstrual stigmas, and Diandra is working to do so by providing free reusables as well menstrual health education workshops to homeless and low-income people across New York City. We checked in with Diandra ahead of UnTabooed’s first birthday and on the heels of her mention in Newsweek following their amazing menstrual equity cover (and consequent backlash, apparently).
“We have this problem of lack of access to menstrual products in the U.S. that no one is addressing in this sustainable way that’s being used all over the world,” Diandra told Newsweek.
Diandra told us more about why she started UnTabooed, why she chose to focus on reusables and how we can all help to make a difference (including a period party). Read on!
Cycledork: What inspired you to start UnTabooed?
Diandra Kalish: I had an “aha” moment after reading about homeless people in the United States who didn’t have access to menstrual hygiene products. I realized that I personally had never even thought to donate any type of menstrual hygiene product when donating food, clothing, or books. With a little more research, I discovered that many shelters don’t ask for menstrual hygiene products because of the taboo surrounding the topic. That’s when it really became apparent that people were suffering because of the stigma surrounding the topic.
In my initial obsessive Googling phase, I started to learn about organizations providing reusable products to people who also couldn’t afford or didn’t have access to the products in developing countries. I personally had been using a menstrual cup for about two years at that point. For me reusables are a more long-term solution than disposable products, especially considering environmental and economical factors. They produce less waste and cost less money over time.
Do you work with other NYC organizations for educational talks and/or donations?
We do work with NYC organizations that support and house low income and homeless menstruators, and colleges and universities to run our workshops. We’ve also been able to expand to working in New Jersey and Connecticut. On April 25th we will be collaborating with Sustainable Cycles and Jane Legge to run a workshop open to the public.
What’s been the most challenging part of starting your own nonprofit so far?
Getting a foot in the door. “Pleasant persistence” is my trick.
Do you find it more challenging because it’s related to menstruation and is still considered taboo?
Actually, it’s not the menstruation that’s the challenge for us; it’s the reusable products. Reusables have an additional taboo surrounding them because people think they are weird and gross (they are neither!). Now that people are finally willing to talk about periods, a big part of the challenge is getting them to take the next step and embrace more than pads and tampons.
What have you learned in the process of working with menstruators who are homeless or low-income you wish everyone knew?
They are unstoppable. They will use and do whatever it takes during their periods to do what they need. Since they are already such superhumans, we just hope to take away that “whatever they have” bit, so that their periods don’t have to cause any extra anxiety each month.
What can we do as individuals to help?
We hope you will join us for the Proud, Period, Party! a celebration of our 1st Birthday on May 23rd. Contact us if you are interested in getting involved or bringing a workshop to your community. Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to help spread the work we are doing. Most importantly, #breakthetaboo by talking about periods with everyone, everywhere!
You heard her! We hope you can make it to the party on May 23—we’ll see you there!