Fordham Sophomore Raises Period Poverty Awareness


Hartlieb plans to lobby for period poverty awareness in her career. (Courtesy of Abby Hartlieb for The Fordham Ram)

Abby Hartlieb, FCRH ’25, got some much-needed rest this spring break working at her parents’ business, Rita’s Italian Ice. “Yeah that week was crazy, with the first week of spring we had the balloon arch and everything,” she laughs, bright and airy in the equally bright and airy McShane Campus Center on a rainy Thursday morning.

After a week of “slinging some ice” at home in Bel Air, Md., Hartlieb was back to her regular running around — literally, she just ran a 5k this weekend. Her demanding schedule includes secretary of Leading Women of Tomorrow, marketing director of Fordham Dance Marathon, a campus job, a member of the Committee on Sexual Misconduct, an intramural volleyball team and Outreach Intern for Days For Girls. 

This last position is one that Hartlieb seems to devote most of her time and attention. Days For Girls is a foundation dedicated to eradicating period poverty, which is a lack of access to products that keep menstruators clean and healthy while they are on their periods. 500 million are affected worldwide, and it affects roughly one in five of all New Yorkers living in poverty. “Period poverty is when you have to decide between feeding your family or buying a box of tampons,” explains Hartlieb. “At the end of the day, it just really makes a large impact on girls’ self-esteem… No one should be feeling like they don’t have access to take care of their own body.”

Hartlieb became involved in the period poverty movement as a sophomore in high school after attending the annual Girl Up Leadership Summit located in Washington, D.C. where she saw period activist Nadya Okamoto give a presentation. 

“I was so inspired by it mostly because I couldn’t believe I didn’t know it was a thing. I was so involved in the female empowerment aspect, I was totally into that, but I had no idea about this whole women’s health issue.” Hartlieb took what she learned at that summit back to her high school, where she started her own Girl Up club chapter and began her own work with fighting against period poverty.

Hartlieb is particularly interested in the cross section of when period poverty impacts a girl’s education. Her research this past summer focused on the correlation between period poverty and school attendance. She found that those with less access to menstrual products were more likely to miss school than those who do have consistent access. 

A crucial aspect of eradicating period poverty is dismantling the stigma associated with periods generally. Hartlieb seeks to destigmatize this normal bodily function — regardless of any discomfort it may inspire. In a project for her composition class last year, Hartlieb made a video interviewing students about their own menstruation education. 

“My first opening question was just like ‘Periods’ and like their initial reactions.” If her subjects blushed at the opening line, “it totally [gave] away they’re just kind of a stigmatized, taboo topic.”

Her on-campus research found that, at best, students knew the basic gist of what menstruation is, but they certainly had no idea about period poverty or how to combat it. Conversations, Hartlieb believes, are the best way to dismantle the discomfort surrounding periods. “[That’s] all we can really do at this point. As students, it’s those small steps that really make a difference.”

In her future career, Hartlieb wants to continue researching and lobbying for awareness regarding period poverty, perhaps wading into the waters of public health policy, but as a current international studies major, her ultimate goal “is to travel and make a difference.” Her first destination is France, where she will study abroad next spring and wants to continue her work on period poverty. Until then, her campus job keeps her plenty busy. “It’s always been my dream job,” Hartlieb jokes semi-seriously, eyes wide and smile bright. She cannot disclose what exactly this position is, but she will admit to having some “Hannah Montana moments” and says that growing up and being the “Ice Guy” for her parents’ business helped her prepare for this role of a lifetime.

“I just love it. There are so many people that are so excited to see you and get an instant smile just by you being there. Like that’s literally all it takes for some people. It’s such a great feeling.” 

While such involvement both on campus and off might sound exhausting to you or I, it’s fuel for Hartlieb. “I am really passionate about these things. Yeah they take a lot of time, but I really love them.” She has also found and created a strong community through these activities. “I go to meetings and hang out with my friends while we do things for great causes together.” 

Look out for Hartlieb on her crusade to bring attention to period poverty, or stop by any event on campus and you might see her dancing and bringing smiles to the faces of all those who know her.