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Women's Wave rallying for reproductive rights

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McKenzie Wallace and Anna Fleming, the founders of Sisters United SD, protested for women's reproductive rights on Sept. 15 in Rapid City. Sisters United SD is one of the organizers and sponsors of the West River Women's Wave Rally on Oct. 8 in Halley Park. 

As election day approaches, the West River Women’s Wave Rally and Period Project is urging women to fight for the right to control their own reproductive health.

The West River Women’s Wave Rally and Period Project will be from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday at Halley Park in Rapid City. The event is sponsored by Sisters United SD, Democracy in Action, the Rapid City branch of American Association of University Women, and NOW South Dakota.

Five years after the nationwide Women’s March, Women’s Wave is a national day of action taking place in Washington D.C. and throughout the United States on Saturday. The West River Women’s Wave Rally is part of the national day of action. Women are invited to gather at the “point” of Halley Park to rally. Sign-making supplies will be provided, or women can bring their own signs. There will be a voter registration site at the rally.

“I don’t think any of us are pro-abortion. All of us are about controlling our own bodies with the help of our doctors and our families,” said Eileen Leir of the Rapid City branch of AAUW.

The organization has always advocated for equity and education for women, Leir said, but recently AAUW has become more active in the fight for reproductive rights that affect women’s ability to obtain education and opportunities.

The West River Women’s Wave Rally also will be raising awareness about period poverty – people’s inability to afford hygiene products they need while menstruating. Saturday is #PeriodActionDay, a worldwide effort to end period poverty.

The West River Women’s Wave Rally will observe #PeriodActionDay by collecting donations of purchase-packaged sanitary tampons and menstrual pads. Those will be delivered to locations including the Hope Center and WAVI in Rapid City.

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“These things should never be optional. Period products are something that all women deserve, whether they can afford it or not,” Leir said.

According to the Journal of Global Health Reports, worldwide 500 million people lack access to menstrual products and hygiene facilities, and in the United States 16.9 million people who menstruate are living in poverty. Two-thirds of the 16.9 million low-income women could not afford menstrual products, and half of the women were forced to choose between buying menstrual products or food.

The issue of period poverty affects 14.2% of menstruating people in college, and 10% of them experience period poverty every month. One in five high school girls misses school because they’re unable to afford period products.

The West River Women’s Wave Rally sponsors believe every woman should have access to essential products that will help keep her healthy in body and mind.

“We need to quit hiding these (issues),” said Dorothy Brewick, a member of Democracy in Action. “Sisters United got us hooked up with #PeriodActionDay. I think (gathering period products) will be an ongoing thing.”

Sisters United SD is an organization newly launched this summer by McKenzie Wallace and Anna Fleming of Rapid City. Angered by the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the women turned their outrage into action. They recently co-sponsored a Take Back Women’s Equality Day in Rapid City. Sisters United SD’s mission is activism, education and encouraging people to register to vote, Wallace said.

Brewick and Leir each have been advocating for women’s rights since the 1960s and 1970s, and they are pleased to be partnering with a younger generation of women to jointly continue fighting for women’s rights.

“I’m really invested in reproductive rights but also getting women voting and getting young women voting,” Leir said.

“We are women of a certain age that have found a partnership and become allies with this wonderful young group of women (Sisters United). It’s been a good experience for us and they seem to appreciate us too,” Brewick said. “Building a coalition like that is probably kind of unusual, but it’s wonderful. We like these young women so much.”

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