On any given day, 800 million people are on their period. Of those 800 million, at least 500 million lack the adequate facilities, menstrual products, or education they need to have a healthy period. Why does this matter?
When children cannot afford their menstrual products or live in shame because of their period, they miss school. In India, over 20% of girls do not finish school because they cannot afford such products. In Kenya, the number is over 60%. And when children do not finish school, they are more likely to be forced into child marriage. As child brides, they are more likely to give birth to a child as a child, increasing the likelihood of dying. These global issues the United Nations, powerful NGOs, and world leaders have been trying to solve for decades — education inequity, child marriage, and maternal mortality — share a common root: menstrual inequity. We have never looked at this cause before because we have been too uncomfortable to discuss periods. But when we allow our comfort to dictate our speech, we are allowing people to die.
In the U.S., the problem is not smaller. 20% of kids who bleed miss school due to their period. In American federal prisons, some inmates have reported only receiving two pads per month, being forced to either barter their products with other inmates or physically show the soiled pads to prison guards for new ones. Homeless and low-income people who menstruate use toilet paper or rags for their flows, causing infections or disease.
Menstrual equity is the idea that every person who bleeds deserves access to products and resources, to live a life free of stigma and dogma. As a 17-year-old, due to a series of incidents and realizations, I knew I needed to address this human rights issue.
In February 2015, I founded Operation Period, a youth, volunteer-run nonprofit based in the US that provides advocacy, education, and services to those in need. I serve as Executive Director, overseeing everything from deliveries to fundraising and finances to outreach, communications, and partnerships. This year alone, in May for Menstrual Hygiene Week, we hosted 15 events in four countries to celebrate periods and menstrual equity. To date, we have distributed over 180,000 menstrual products to low-income and homeless populations in the US and India. Our vision is to one day create a world where menstruation holds no one back.
Through my work, I have been published in everything from small-town newspapers to Esquire. I have spoken about periods to fellow policymakers while working in the Obama White House and to NASA astronauts while working at Johnson Space Center as an engineer. I have met formerly homeless mothers like Tara Walker who brought their young children into public restrooms to keep an eye on them as they wrapped toilet paper and used it as a substitute for a pad. I have heard from girls who have gone from anemic and bedridden to athletes because of the products and nutritional supplements we have provided. I have talked to fifth graders in Oregon, middle schoolers in South India, and adults at conferences around the US. And I have been impacted by every minute of it, knowing that the more we discuss this, the closer we are to ending period poverty.
If we are not only able to get products into the hands of every person who needs them and build the facilities necessary to have a healthy period, but create a global culture that uplifts all those who bleed, our world will be radically and permanently changed for the better. I will continue to work until I see that day.
Operation period campaigns
Across Borders We Bleed
Products for All
Young Minds Abroad
Be the change you
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