Period poverty is a term used to describe a lack of access to menstrual products, sanitation facilities and adequate education. It can affect many people including those who are experiencing homelessness, fleeing from domestic violence, transitioning from rehab centers, and living in poverty or other dire situations. Impoverished adults are sometimes forced to choose between menstrual hygiene products and food or other necessities, while students can occasionally miss school due to lack of available sanitary products.
In 2016, my friend Bridget had an idea to collect menstrual hygiene products from friends, family, and co-workers to donate to a local homeless shelter. This small but impactful gesture inspired me, so the following year I volunteered to help Bridget and together we’ve been organizing annual donation drives.
We knew we couldn’t be alone in wanting to make this type of impact, so after a quick internet search, we learned of a national non-profit called I Support The Girls and found there was an established Cleveland chapter. ISTG has a mission statement that very effectively summarized how Bridget and I felt: “A woman shouldn’t have to choose between feeding herself and her personal health. Every woman should have the ability to maintain her dignity.” Through an international network of Affiliates, I Support the Girls collects and distributes essential items, including bras, underwear, and menstrual hygiene products, allowing women experiencing homelessness, impoverishment, or distress to stand tall with dignity.
I’m pleased to announce this year’s drive is now complete and over 12,400 menstrual and personal hygiene items have been delivered to the Cleveland chapter of ISTG, who in turn distributed these items to Girls in Crisis at CMSD, The Afghan Refugee Women in Cleveland via USCRI, and Cleveland Maidan supporting the Ukrainian refugee women.
Through the generous donations we’ve collected since 2016, we’ve been able to send over 71,000 menstrual products and bras to various shelters and non-profits in the Cleveland and Akron areas. To put this number in perspective, 71,000 menstrual products would cover roughly 250 women’s period needs for an entire year.
Bridget and I would like to extend a very heartfelt thank you to our friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and the Fairway team, who have so kindly donated to support this cause. No one should feel shame or panic around having their period. Together we can help end period poverty.
Visit isupporthegirls.org, or on Facebook, Instagram or TikTok to learn more about the organization or how to run your own collection drive.