Through her first two years at the College of William and Mary, Suditi Shyamsunder ’23 has been heavily involved in the local Williamsburg community. Whether it be as captain of Afsana, a Bollywood fusion dance troupe; volunteering at the Lackey Free clinic, a faith-based health care center which serves the uninsured; or as a confidential advocate at The Haven, Shyamsunder has wasted no time in becoming an active member of the College.
In addition to her participation in various existing on-campus groups, Shyamsunder has taken the initiative to create one of her own: BLOT. The name stands for “Bring Lots Of Tampons,” an initiative dedicated to the fight for menstrual justice.
“We collect donations and fundraise to provide menstrual products to places in Williamsburg that need them, such as free clinics and homeless shelters,” Shyamsunder said. “Additionally, we work to educate the community about menstrual health and justice.”
Her passion for activating menstrual justice began when she read an article regarding how many women in the United States lack access to basic hygiene products. This phenomenon is known as “period poverty,” referring to the fact that many low-income women are unable to afford essential menstrual products. Once she realized the number of people who lacked access to those necessary products, Shyamsundar wanted to see what the College community could do about the issue.
Despite being founded last year, BLOT members have already helped donate hundreds of dollars worth of menstrual products to local care centers. BLOT recently conducted a chalking event, to spread the word and start a conversation on campus.
“While a huge part of the club is fundraising, spreading awareness and educating ourselves as well as the William and Mary community is a big part of it and this was one event centered around that goal,” Shyamsunder said.
Beginning next week, BLOT is conducting a fundraiser in collaboration with Phi Sigma Pi to raise money for the Williamsburg House of Mercy to purchase menstrual products.
“We are posting a bingo board on our Instagram and encouraging members of the community to donate small amounts that we hope will accumulate and allow us to purchase plenty of products for the shelter,” Shyamsunder said.
Shyamsunder hopes that the group can continue its charitable work in the upcoming semesters while also spreading awareness to the public.
“I am hoping that in the future, BLOT will continue to have annual fundraisers and product drives so that we can donate as many menstrual products as we can,” Shyamsunder said. “Additionally, I am hoping that we can engage in more education and destigmatization of periods in general.”
In addition to sending in donations, Shyamsunder says that students can become involved with BLOT by attending its bi-weekly meetings on Sundays or by following the organization on social media.
Shyamsunder connected her activism and her involvement in BLOT with her academic studies.
“Learning more about the injustices and inequalities that surround these two topics really frustrates me, but this frustration is important because it fuels a desire to get involved in relevant activism.”
“Learning more about the injustices and inequalities that surround these two topics really frustrates me, but this frustration is important because it fuels a desire to get involved in relevant activism,” Shyamsunder said.
Shyamsunder is a data science major on the pre-med track and a 1693 scholar. After completing her undergraduate studies at the College, she hopes to attend medical school.
Although she wants to become a physician, Shyamsunder also wants to continue helping those in marginalized communities.
“I want to continue to work at free clinics, so hopefully that would also be part of my career,” Shyamsunder said.
When she’s not engaging in extracurricular activities, volunteering or studying, Shyamsunder likes watching television shows and working on creative hobbies.
“In my free time, I like to watch shows like The Office, New Girl, and How I Met Your Mother,” Shyamsunder said. “I also enjoy knitting and procrastinating on schoolwork by hanging out with my suitemates.”
Because of the stressful environment at the College, Shyamsunder says that although it is important to find time to relax, it can often be difficult.
“It is important to remember to take time away from studying and make memories because college is meant to be enjoyable and not merely a stepping stone to another stage of life,” Shyamsunder said. “However, I know this is advice that I struggle to follow sometimes!”
Alexandra Byrne also contributed reporting to this article.