After launching their “Secured.” initiative last fall to help get menstrual hygiene products to those without access to them, the women behind local nonprofit Power Pump Girls are ready to expand their organization’s efforts.
Power Pump Girls founders Raina Vallot and Sherin Dawud launched their organization in 2017 to help bridge the gap between those in need and people with the means to serve. They got the name from a pair of “power pumps” and the capable feeling that can come from wearing a confidence-boosting pair of shoes, Dawud says.
Secured., launched in 2019, aims to help end period poverty, or when an individual can not provide, or doesn’t have access to, menstrual hygiene products. Using merchandise sales and individual donations, Power Pump Girls partners with Baton Rouge area schools, shelters and prison outreach organizations to get hygiene products to people who need them.
“So because Power Pump Girls was founded on social impact, we wanted to scale the number of people and the type of issues we impact,” Dawud says.
They plan to launch a crowdfunding campaign early this summer to finance their expansion and hope to grow their focus to the entire state, not just Baton Rouge.
“We started with 40 or 50 women, and we have 700 now,” Vallot says of the organization’s core supporters. “They are looking for ways to help give voices to people who don’t have a voice and so our new fundraising campaign will allow us to scale that.”
The first step in their plans beyond fighting period poverty was a recent blood donation drive Power Pump Girls held in partnership LifeShare Blood Centers and East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor Sharon Weston Broome on May 13.
“We were on a teleconference and (Broome) mentioned there was a blood shortage due to COVID-19,” Vallot says. “So, because we had a network and a platform, we helped. We were able to secure 40 units of blood in a couple of hours, and we’re looking to keep doing blood drives outside of the pandemic and activate more donors.”
The subject of their latest effort is up for debate in the Louisiana state senate this week. Power Pump Girls, working with the Junior League of Baton Rouge and Capital Area United Way, are advocating for a piece of bipartisan legislation to exempt feminine hygiene products and diapers from local sales taxes in Louisiana.
HB328, authored by State Rep. Aimee Adatto Freeman, D-New Orleans, was passed by the House last week, and now awaits Senate approval. Vallot and Dawud wrote a letter to their representatives and encouraged Power Pump Girls followers on social media to reach out to their legislators. A part of the Secured. initative’s mission is to eliminate the taboo around women’s health, Dawud and Shallot say.
“Even when it was presented in the House it was kind of cringey for some people,” Vallot says. “A part of our mission is to make it normal conversation.”
Outreach was a little more complicated because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Dawud and Vallot say they’re happy with how the effort to raise awareness about the bill turned out.
“It would be cool if a bunch of women could show up at the Capitol, but we were able to use our platform and make it known that this was something available to our legislators,” Dowud says.