When You're A Refugee, And You Get Your Period

When You're A Refugee, And You Get Your Period

One of the most satisfying things we do here at Lunapads is run the Pads4Girls & One4Her projects - this allows us to help encourage and empower global menstrual hygiene organizations. One we partnered with recently, The Unmentionables, is providing pads and underwear to migrant women trapped in refugee camps in Greece. The Unmentionables' Kayleigh Heard shared with us her reflections on why menstrual hygiene is so important, and why they chose to provide reusable period underwear through their programs. We were so thrilled to be able to help!

Last Saturday I was climbing a mountain.  Not metaphorically, but physically climbing a mountain.  Now let's just say I'm not a champion hiker.  I LOVE hiking...on my own.  When I can go slow, and avoid speaking to others while I swallow my tears and intimately process the misery occurring in my calves.  But I was hiking with others and (as if that wasn't enough), after hurling several streams of choice words at trees, and rocks, and innocent hiking buddies, when we finallllyyyyyy made it to the top...IT HAPPENED.  The dreaded cramps hit.  You know what I'm talking about.  HELLO PERIOD, so kind of you to join me on my mountaintop. And there I was, 5 miles away from the car, tampon-less, pad-less, period underwear-less, surrounded by people, and MORTIFIED.

There is no worse feeling than when the cramps hit and you're ENTIRELY unprepared.

There is no worse feeling than when the cramps hit and you're ENTIRELY unprepared.  Now normally I'd say nothing good can come from a situation like this.  I mean, you're hiking, you smell terrible, there are pine needles in places there never should be, and then you get the cramps.   But awesomely, this terrifying moment gave me a brief glimpse into what a migrant woman would experience having her period during her journey, and gave me an extra boost of passion for what The Unmentionables does.

See, I may have been wholly unprepared and five miles from the car but the only thing that was bothering me was the potential for embarrassment and ruined shorts.  There was never a doubt in my mind that I didn't have access to or couldn't afford period products or wouldn't be able to change my clothes, I had just (in typical fashion) forgotten to keep track of when Aunt Flo would arrive.  But this isn't the reality for migrant women and girls.

When these women and girls get their periods, either during their journeys or when living in refugee camps, they have no choice but to resort to using leaves, garbage, and pieces of old mattresses to manage their monthly cycle – not because they mismanaged their period app, but because when you don't stop to grab your box of Always when you're fleeing a war zone.  On top of that, when the necessary products are available, they're often distributed in public, one at a time, and usually by men.  Can you imagine having to go out into the middle of your street, every 6 hours, and ask someone you don't know for a pad?  The anxiety I felt was a one time thing, but the anxiety, shame, and indignity they feel is hour by hour, month by month.

Can you imagine having to go out into the middle of your street, every 6 hours, and ask someone you don't know for a pad?

So, as we get ready for our summer projects I am spending time with our period partners – from Vancouver, British Columbia to Port Jefferson, New York. What am I doing on this Period Roadtrip exactly? I'm literally picking up thousands and thousands of period products for distribution to refugee women and girls and hanging out with our partners that are passionate about making that time of the month a little less mortifying for vulnerable women. 

Our most exciting pick-up thus far has been with Lunapads.  I've actually HAD Lunapads for a while now, loved them, and learned three incredible things in partnering with them that has made me love them even more.  First, they are headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, my adopted hometown, five minutes from my old house.  As a proud Canadian it always makes me a little extra excited to partner with organizations in my own backyard.  Secondly, they are the longtime partners of the people behind the DivaCup (you know, that menstrual cup that's taken the world by storm?!)!  So cool!  And third, that this company has one of the biggest hearts I've ever seen for bettering the lives of women and girls around the world.  

From the time we reached out to Lunapads about supporting our work through their Pads4Girls program they were full of fiery spirit, and passion for The Unmentionables.  Because of their big hearts we are able to provide 100 migrant women and girls with reusable period products in Greece this summer.  Yes, I said REUSABLE.  Here's the thing.  I (and probably you) grew up with endless access to period products in my house. I never thought twice about it, they were always just there.  But did you know the average woman uses anywhere from 18 to 24 tampons or pads PER PERIOD? That's between 200 to 300 period products per year for just ONE woman.  

The sheer number of products we needed per period hit our team square in the face when we were calculating how many pads we would need to serve the 100 women that were residing in the Souda camp in Chios, Greece in March.  Here's the math – 100 women and girls = 2400 pads for one month.  By providing women and girls reusable feminine hygiene underwear kits Lunapads is allowing us to do two things. First, the underwear functions as normal underwear so we are able to provide 100 women three pairs of underwear each.  Second, each pair of underwear comes complete with a reusable pad insert that lasts up to a year with proper use and care.  This not only allows us to provide these women and girls a year's worth of menstrual products but also allows us to cut the environmental impact of feminine hygiene products by 29,000 pads per year, just by providing reusable products to 100 women.

Think about that impact.  Think about the dignity, hygiene, security, and relief from anxiety these kits are providing.  Think about the environmental impact.  This is Smart Aid in action.  We are so grateful to Lunapads and their #Pads4Girls program helping us provide dignity through hygiene to migrant women and girls. 

Click here to shop our One4Her programs - every pad you buy ensures a pad reaches a girl in need. Learn more about The Unmentionables and send one of their Undiegrams here.

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