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3 teenagers are tackling period poverty by setting up a 'period pantry' to give free menstrual products

They were astonished to learn that menstrual products are expensive and inaccessible to many people around the world.

Image Source: Getty Images/Isabel Pavia
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Menstrual products are a basic necessity and should be accessible to everyone worldwide. However, these products are costly and taxed which forces people to resort to cheaper alternatives, thereby exposing themselves to significant health risks. Ariyanna Ghala, 14, was shocked to see how highly-priced menstrual products are while shopping with her mother. However, unlike many others, she actually decided to do something about it, reports The Washington Post.

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She spoke with her 14-year-old friends Isabel Buescher and Ramsey Warner, and the three of them set to work. They did some research on the subject and discovered how many states still tax menstrual goods. Through their research, the girls also came to know of "period poverty," which is a lack of access to menstrual products, education, hygienic facilities, and waste management. According to a report published by BMC Women's Health in 2021, across the world, an estimated 500 million people who menstruate are afflicted by period poverty. 

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Ghala, Buescher, and Warner also read stories about girls who skip school due to a lack of access to pads and tampons. 



 

Ghala decided with her friends that they need to find some way to make these products accessible to those who need them. She said, "We are girls and we can totally understand. That's honestly awful that people wouldn't have [period products]. These are so important, so vital."

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The girls, who are all students at James Madison High School, are members of a growing group of activists calling for menstrual equality. Determined to make a difference, the three friends established the Vienna-period pantry outside the Emmaus United Church of Christ on Maple Avenue and next to a food pantry.


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The pantry has been stocked by the girls for months with pads and tampons that are donated. Although the shelves empty as fast as they're filled up, other good Samaritans also seem to be adding products to the pantry. The period pantry has also been a project for the teens' Girl Scout Troop 6833 and earned the girls the Silver Award, the highest award a Girl Scout Cadette can earn, explained Kelli Naughton, the troop's adult guide. To qualify for the award, one must have spent 50 hours on a project that has a sustainable impact on the community.

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Warner said, "We already knew that these products were expensive, but we're kind of just like taught that's just how it was. When you start thinking about how other people can't have that mindset of, 'That's just how it is,' because they can't afford it, it's really unfair."


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According to The Gender Policy Report, students who have a low household income worry about affording the basic need of safe menstrual hygiene. Up to two-thirds of the female students at one St. Louis high school said they could not find tampons or pads from a dependable source. A third of the female students at the same institution reported skipping school due to this particular reason. 

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Ghala, Buescher and Warner are now working on coming up with ideas to keep the pantry operational, including the possibility of turning the initiative into a nonprofit. Buescher said, "It makes me feel good that we’ve been able to help people."

When building the pantry, the girls painted the woodwork pink and embellished it with a Helen Keller quote that encapsulated the function they thought the pantry would serve for their community: "Alone, we can do so little: together, we can do so much."

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