Bringing Attention to — and Easing the Problem of — Global Period Poverty
For women and girls experiencing financial hardship or poverty, menstrual hygiene products are often inaccessible or low on their list of “essential items” to buy. This is known as period poverty, and it has worsened during the pandemic as unemployment rates and the prices of menstrual hygiene products have risen. With the closure of schools early in the pandemic, girls who relied on supplies from school were more greatly challenged without access to pads and tampons. In an effort to combat period poverty, 19-year-old Ayanna K. proposed a project for her Girl Scout Gold Award to help empower women and girls in need of feminine hygiene products.
“Despite the severity of this issue, very little was being done to address this in my community,” Ayanna tells CircleAround. “Considering how integral feminine hygiene supplies are to the health of so many, I aimed to contribute toward easing this issue.”
With the support of her Girl Scout network, Ayanna was connected with resources and communities in need of help. She worked tirelessly to create and distribute menstrual care packages for women and teens in shelters around the Greater Philadelphia area, where Ayanna lives. Overall, she was able to provide more than 1,000 women with care packages.
As her project expanded, Ayanna realized that inaccessibility to menstrual products was only part of the problem. The bigger issue it seemed, was awareness surrounding menstrual inequity in general.
“I was surprised with how unknown this issue was within my immediate community,” Ayanna explains to CircleAround. “This lack of attention prompted me to include raising awareness as a key component of my Girl Scout Gold Award project.”
While Ayanna has been involved in many community service projects throughout her time as a Girl Scout, she had never led a project herself before working on her Gold Award. Through the process, she learned many valuable lessons about leadership.
"Women and girls around the world are accomplishing incredible things, but it's important to look at these amazing feats not as exceptions but as new beginnings."
“Being the one people look toward during challenges was a very new situation for me,” Ayanna says. “Understanding how to both lead a diverse group of individuals toward a common goal, and to be the one to determine how to navigate challenges, was an incredibly important but difficult experience.”
Ayanna turned to her Gold Award project adviser for guidance and support. “As a teenager, I lacked the experience necessary to smoothly navigate the business side of community service,” Ayanna explains. “My adviser, Srivastava, gave me a professional lens that made this daunting task much more manageable, allowing me to successfully work with large-scale organizations and run effective fundraisers.”
Srivastava tells CircleAround that she’s been impressed by her mentee’s work. “It’s not too often that you come across a young lady who has great organizational skills and is willing to put the time and effort into a true altruistic cause. It was a privilege to support Ayanna. She made it so easy being her mentor, always coming to me with options and solutions, taking feedback constructively.”
Currently, Ayanna is studying neuroscience at Emory University, and she knows she will continue to make an impact on whatever community she’s a part of. “There's a preconception that changing the world around you requires a big push, but working on little changes is still incredibly important,” she says. “Though the change I made was more local, recognizing these niche community issues are critical to enact positive change throughout the world.”
Ayanna’s work will hopefully continue to inspire the next generation of Girl Scouts looking to make a positive impact on their communities. Ayanna says, “Women and girls around the world are accomplishing incredible things, but it's important to look at these amazing feats not as exceptions but as new beginnings.”