Period poverty keeps women and girls from reaching their full potential, in the U.S. and around the world
Photo by Annika Gordon on Unsplash
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There are few certainties in life, but one thing women and girls can generally depend on is a monthly period. Come hell or high water, Aunt Flo is likely gonna show, and it's almost always going to happen at an inopportune time.

Now imagine what life looks like for those who lack access to period products.

Katie is in the 6th grade. She lives in the poorest county in Kentucky, where almost everyone works in coal — and there is too little education and too much meth. Katie's family doesn't have enough money to eat or keep the power on consistently. Personal hygiene is an afterthought, which is why when she gets her first period, she has no choice but to stuff old washcloths into her underwear before going to school.

Later that week, when she runs out of washcloths, she simply stops going.


For girls like Katie, it's easy to see how menstruation each month can stand in the way of a high school graduation or keeping a summer job — and could eventually prevent them from climbing out of poverty altogether.

According to the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, approximately 500 million women and girls live without access to essential tools for menstrual hygiene management, such as period products and handwashing facilities, but what many of them do have is a boatload of shame. Across the board, menstrual health is hugely underfunded and over stigmatized, leaving people like Katie at a huge disadvantage.

Thorsten Kiefer, co-founder of WASH United — a non-profit organization that focuses on improving menstrual hygiene and human rights worldwide — told Upworthy that he wants to see period poverty become a thing of the past. His goal is to "create a world in which no woman or girl is limited because of her period by 2030," because Kiefer hates injustice.

That general distaste for ignorance and injustice is what led him to pursue a career in human rights law, and later spurred the idea for WASH United. It bothered Kiefer that no one wanted to talk about toilets and handwashing, and as a result, people suffered. "I guess I'm really interested in taboo social issues no one else wants to touch," he said.

In 2013, WASH United took their work a step further and created Menstrual Hygiene Day (MH Day), a global advocacy platform that brings together the voices and actions of non-profits, government agencies, individuals, the private sector and the media to promote good menstrual hygiene management for all women and girls. The main goal of MH Day is to break the silence, raise awareness and change negative social norms surrounding periods.

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This goal is why his organization partners with brands like Always to bring the issues around menstrual health to the forefront.

Always ramped up production and shipping of pads in response to the COVID-19 crisis, with a goal of getting products into stores quickly and donating them to those in need through charity partners. So far, the company has donated over five million period products across the United States, as well as worked to find relevant ways to ensure that girls and their families have access to information and resources that they need to navigate their periods with confidence.

Clearly, the more attention periods get, the more resources will become available for the people who need them the most.

"I'm most proud of the MH Day partnership as a whole — of how this extremely heterogeneous group of organizations ranging from tiny, grassroots non-governmental organizations to corporate giants like Procter & Gamble sings together like one gigantic choir to make our voice heard loud and clear for one single purpose: empower women and girls to achieve their full potential and realize their dreams," Kiefer said.

"Maybe 'proud' is not even the right word. To see MH Day in action just makes me really happy."

Girls like Katie, if armed with period products, an education and a supportive environment, can change the world. The question is, will we help them get what they need?

To support this effort and other programs like it, all you have to do is keep doing what you're doing — like shopping for period products. Turn your everyday actions into acts of good every day at P&G Good Everyday.

Courtesy of The Commit Partnership
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For Festus Oyinwola, a 19-year-old first-generation college student from Dallas, Texas, the financial burden of attending college made his higher education dreams feel like a faraway goal.

As his high school graduation neared, Oyinwola feared he would have to interrupt his educational pursuits for at least a year to save up to attend college.

That changed when Oyinwola learned of the Dallas County Promise, a new program launched by The Commit Partnership, a community navigator that works to ensure that all North Texas students receive an equitable education.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

The Dallas County Promise covers any cost of tuition not included in financial aid grants. To date, nearly 60 high schools in Dallas County currently participate in this initiative.

It pairs students — including Oyinwola — with a success coach for the following three years of their education.

To ensure that students like Oyinwola have the opportunity to build a solid foundation, The Commit Partnership is supported by businesses like Capital One who are committed to driving meaningful change in Dallas County through improved access to education.

The bank's support comes as part of its initial $200 million, multi-year commitment to advance socioeconomic mobility through the Capital One Impact Initiative.

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Just over a year into the coronavirus pandemic, we're finally seeing a light at the end of our socially distanced tunnel. We still have a ways to go, but with millions of vaccines being doled out daily, we're well on our way toward somewhat normal life again. Hallelujah.

As we head toward that light, it's natural to look back over our shoulders at the past year to see what we're leaving behind. There's the "good riddance" stuff of course—the mass deaths, the missing loved ones, the closed-up businesses, the economic, social and political strife—which no one is going to miss.

But there's personal stuff, too. As we reflect on how we coped, how we spent our time, what we did and didn't do this past year, we're thinking about what we'll be bringing out of the tunnel with us.

And some of us are finding that comes with a decent dose of regret. Maybe a little guilt. Some disappointment as we go down the coulda-woulda-shoulda road.

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The past year has changed the way a lot of people see the world and brought the importance of global change to the forefront. However, even social impact entrepreneurs have had to adapt to the changing circumstances brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic.

"The first barrier is lack of funding. COVID-19 has deeply impacted many of our supporters, and we presume it will continue to do so. Current market volatility has caused many of our supporters to scale back or withdraw their support altogether," said Brisa de Angulo, co-founder of A Breeze of Hope Foundation, a non-profit that prevents childhood sexual violence in Bolivia and winner of the 2020 Elevate Prize.

To help social entrepreneurs scale their impact for the second year in a row, The Elevate Prize is awarding $5 million to 10 innovators, activists, and problem–solvers who are making a difference in their communities every day.

"We want to see extraordinary people leading high-impact projects that are elevating opportunities for all people, elevating issues and their solutions, or elevating understanding of and between people," The Elevate Prize website states.

Founded in 2019 by entrepreneur and philanthropist Joseph Deitch, The Elevate Prize is dedicated to giving unsung social entrepreneurs the necessary resources to scale their impact and to ultimately help inspire and awaken the hero in all of us.

"The Elevate Prize remains committed to finding a radically diverse group of innovative problem solvers and investing unconventional and personalized resources that bring greater visibility to them as leaders and the vital work they do. We make good famous," said Carolina García Jayaram, executive director, Elevate Prize Foundation.

The application process will take place in two phases. Applicants have till May 5 for Phase 1, which will include a short written application. A select number of those applicants will then be chosen for Phase 2, which includes a more robust set of questions later this summer. Ten winners will be announced in October 2021.

In addition to money, winners will also receive support from The Elevate Prize to help amplify their mission, achieve their goals, and receive mentorship and industry connections.

Last year, 1,297 candidates applied for the prize.

The 10 winners include Simprints, a UK-based nonprofit implementing biometric solutions to give people in the developing world hope and access to a better healthcare system; ReThink, a patented, innovative app that detects offensive messages and gives users a chance to reconsider posting them; and Guitars Over Guns, an organization bridging the opportunity gap for youth from vulnerable communities through transformational access to music, connectivity, and self-empowerment.

You can learn more about last year's winners, here.

If you know of someone or you yourself are ready to scale your impact, apply here today.