Kristen Cochrane talks to Anna Collins about The Period Power Project, a collective of women working to bring menstrual cups to a town in Columbia.
Main image of the Period Power girls, by Hayley Elsaesser.
We are sitting on the back patio at Jimmy’s Coffee in Kensington Market, Toronto. I ask Anna Collins about her earrings, turquoise smiley faces with upside down crosses hanging from them. “Petra got them for me,” she said. The artist-photographer-filmmaker Petra Collins is Anna’s sister, and their best-friend-sistership is nothing short of amazing.
I met up with Anna to talk about The Period Power Project that she is co-organizing with her four best friends; Aurora Shields, Jacqueline Ashton, Izzy Parrell, and Sofy Mesa. The Period Power Project is a feminist collective intended to support women in Palomino, Colombia by providing them with menstrual cups and educating people on permaculture within the country.
Since selfies are the ultimate form of photographic empowerment (you get to choose what you want to look like, good lighting permitting), I got Anna to take a selfie that showed off her earrings and necklace.
I first noticed Anna through her Instagram, where she posted a picture from a femme-palette, 80s style public bathroom that had “Admire someone else’s beauty without questioning your own” written in purple marker on a bathroom stall. It showed an empathy that shares the spirit the ethos of the kind of intersectional, feminist empowerment a lot of us want.
Trained in ballet, Anna has one year left of a joint program with York University and the National Ballet School in Toronto, where she will receive a BFA and a teaching diploma. Warm, kind, and honest, she’s passionate about teaching and empowering women. These traits are obvious from a few things: her #AskAnnaBallins YouTube series where she answers submitted questions on anything from friendship, love, sex, and body image, among others; the dance camp she is running in July; the compassionate way she talks about her family. It makes sense, then, that Anna was once affectionately called maternal by her sister in in an interview with Oyster Mag.
A photo from Anna Collins’s Instagram.
But it’s The Period Power Project that publicly shows Anna’s maternal side. Because of the work of TPPP, menstrual cups will be transported to Palomino, Guajira, Colombia this December. TPPP member, Sofy Mesa, was born in Colombia, and her mother lives in Palomino. In Palomino, young women miss school while they have their periods for lack of menstrual products, and girls don’t have a lot of people to talk to about their periods
In order to make this possible, TPPP are hosting a fundraising event in Toronto this Friday, June 24th. 100% of the proceeds will be going towards the purchasing of menstrual cups, so that Sofy can take them to Palomino, where she will hold a gathering open to girls and women, to educate them on the benefits of the menstrual cups and hand them out.
To make the event as inclusive as possible, TPPP are trying to make the show more communal, “where everyone is comfortable, and we want lots of dancing,” Anna told me. There will also be performances from the feminist collective called Boner Kill. The collective has a mandate that aims to be trans-inclusive, POC-inclusive, Muslim-inclusive, and body positive.
Another goal of TPPP is to promote environmental sustainability. Anna brought up the idea of permaculture, where agriculture is framed around sustainability and self-sufficiency. Basically, it means you give back to the earth (and humans!), without harming the earth and the people who live on it. “In Colombia there’s a huge garbage issue. So menstrual cups, which are reusable, help with that problem,” she said. “Pads and tampons are expensive there, and think of how many feminine products that we use while on our period. Having a menstrual cup helps in terms of sustainability and living off the land. Our goal is to promote all of those ideas.”
I asked if they are planning on taking The Period Power Project to other places in the world after Palomino. Anna said they are currently just focusing on this event, but that “Hopefully in the future we can make our project local,” she said. She raised the issue of menstrual shortages in the indigenous communities in Toronto. Then, if the first run is successful, “it can turn into something a lot bigger.”
The Period Power Project fundraising event is on June 24 at the Younger than Beyoncé Gallery in Toronto where you can dance, buy art, and eat Colombian food. You can also to donate to the project online.
Kristen Cochrane is a writer and academic in Ontario, Canada, who’s researching some very interesting things, like queer Latin American cinema, and the fetishization of the female tennis body. Read her most recent essay for Slutever, on Cyberfeminism, HERE :)