The lack of basic sanitary products is an issue for thousands of women around the world.
As a way to help address this and help improve women’s dignity, the Undergraduate American Medical Women’s Association (UAMWA) is holding its first sanitation drive.
But they are not the only group to do so.
UAMWA’s initiative aims to collect and distribute basic sanitation items, including unused pads, tampons and new or lightly used bras to low-income women in the community.
At the same time, the initiative hopes to educate students about the issue too.
All the products collected will be donated to two nonprofit organizations: I Support the Girls and For the Love of Women. Students can drop off donations on the first floor of Marshall Student Center (MSC) or in the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement main office.
The drive officially began Feb. 12 and is set to end March 31.
According to Manushi Shah, UAMWA president, this is the first philanthropic effort that the organization has done since the chapter was created at USF in 2015.
Due to the overwhelmingly positive response from students, the organization plans to continue and expand the initiative annually.
Aesha Shah, UAMWA Treasurer, said the initiative should not only bring pre-health students together, but all other students currently attending USF, as it can have a significant impact on the community.
“This initiative is going to have a positive impact as we’re going to be helping so many women around us intentionally/unintentionally,” Aesha said. “Sanitation is very important as infections and allergies can spread quicker than expected.”
In a study done by U.S. News and World Report, researchers found that nearly two-thirds of low-income U.S. women cannot afford menstrual pads and tampons.
Two weeks after the drive started, more than 3,000 individual items had been collected, including pads, tampons and bras. The goal is to collect more than 5,000 donations by the end of March.
“All the positive feedback that we’ve been receiving surpassed all my expectations,” Manushi said. “It has only been two weeks since we started the drive and so far we had an overwhelmingly positive response. I never thought that we would get to this point that fast.”
Founded in 2015, I Support the Girls is a nonprofit organization aiming to collect and distribute essential items, including bras, underwear and menstrual hygiene products to women experiencing homelessness or impoverishment. Throughout the years, the organization collected and donated more than 3 million products to women around the world.
“Women’s sanitation is a big deal,” Manushi said. “It’s not meant to be a luxury but it is a necessity for every woman around the world.”
According to Manushi, the initiative is not about only women fighting for women, but everyone fighting for women’s dignity.
“The minute we say it is a sanitary drive for woman products, it draws that line between men and women,” Manushi said. “This issue, it’s something that is only faced by women, however, it should be an effort that everyone, regardless of their gender, should get involved with.”
Less than 1 percent of all donations were donated by male students, Shah said. She added that feminine hygiene products are a necessity, not a luxury.
“We’re here to break those stigmas and bring awareness to the issue,” Manushi said. “Women’s sanitation — it’s something that we should not be ashamed of, but an issue that every woman should proudly stand for and defend their rights for safe and clean hygiene.”