FALL RIVER — As if “The Curse” wasn’t already an inconvenience to half the population, that monthly visit from “Aunt Flo” can also be a financial burden and source of humiliation to many girls and women who simply can’t afford the cost of monthly feminine hygiene products.

Then, there’s the euphemisms such as “The Curse” and “Bloody Mary” often used to describe the menstruation cycle that perpetuate the stigma and fuel shame and indignity.

United Neighbors of Fall River and the YWCA of Southeastern Massachusetts are collaborating to collect menstrual product donations, increase access for those in need, offer products free in school bathrooms, and spread awareness of “period poverty” and menstrual equity.

“The goal is long-term access ... and to take away the stigma,” said United Neighbors Executive Director Wendy Garf-Lipp.

“Period poverty” affects adolescent girls and women who miss school and work because they don’t have access to sanitary products. Products are not covered under SNAP, WIC or Medicaid.

“There are certainly things that need to be provided for in public health,” Garf-Lipp said.

That hasn’t been the norm in the Fall River area when it comes to women gaining access to free supplies.

In other areas, there has been progress. A bill passed recently in Scotland that will make it the first country in the world to offer pads and tampons free to all who need them.

Closer to home, schools in Lynn will stock free feminine hygiene products to cut down on the number of students who call in sick because they have their periods and can’t access supplies.

Locally, free products are rarely available. Most hygiene donations to homeless women and women in need don’t include feminine products.

“We get lots of shampoo and deodorant,” Garf-Lipp said.

In prisons and jails locally, women must purchase sanitary supplies from the commissar. That means pads and tampons can be used as bargaining chips and tools of control, Garf-Lipp said.

In schools, free sanitary supplies may be available but girls have to ask for them or get permission to go to the nurse’s office for access.

“Some girls start menstruating at 9 years old,” Garf-Lipp said. “Some (teachers and nurses) are wonderful and sensitive. Others will make the girls wait.”

Garf-Lipp said having to ask for pads and tampons fuels shame.

“Part of the dignity is not having to stand in front of someone and ask for it,” Garf-Lipp said.

Jordan Latham, director of advocacy and resource development for the YWCA, said period poverty and menstrual equity surveys have been done in New Bedford. Now, she, Garf-Lipp and the Coalition Against Period Poverty are offering an online survey in Fall River.

Latham said they are also working on a booklet geared toward girls and young people that explains the biological aspects of having a period, plus how to use products and proper hygiene for health.

“We’re trying to teach students empathy as a 21st-century learning skill,” Latham said.

The I AM bill in Massachusetts would increase access to menstrual products. Modeled after one that passed in New York City, the bill is in the hands of the Ways and Means Committee.

Latham plans to visit the State House March 26 to show her support for the bill.

United Neighbors, 209 Bedford St., suite 303, is a drop-off point for unopened boxes of pads, tampons and menstrual cups that will distributed to those in need.

More information is available by contacting Garf-Lipp at wendy@unfr.org or Jordan at jlatham@ywcasema.org.

Email Deborah Allard at dallard@heraldnews.com.