Story by Eva Beresin and Audrey Zeff
I did not know that so many women rely on feminine hygiene product donations until recently, Sunday when Dana Marlow spoke to the Strong Women Fellowship about her work starting a nonprofit, I Support The Girls . Marlowe spoke about her work at the end-of-year celebration for JumpSpark’s Strong Women Fellowship, a program that teaches teenage girls about their Jewish identity as women. Marlow embodies all of the strong women characteristics we had talked about throughout this year-long program.
Marlowe shared how she found her passion for helping out other women facing homelessness, poverty, and more. It was really interesting to hear about how before Dana began her organization, she was working at a company that makes technology accessible for people with disabilities, as well as taking care of her family in her home in Maryland. Marlowe did not even mean to start a nonprofit. When she was going to buy new bras, she discovered that there was a need for bras and menstrual hygiene products for women experiencing homelessness, and she began to gather donation materials by buying supplies and collecting them from friends. She organized a small supplies drive, right out of her house, just trying to help a couple of local shelters. It quickly escalated from there when The Washington Post published a story about her supplies drive. She began getting calls from all over the world from people interested in making a difference. Just like that, I Support the Girls was born in 2015.
We learned that some girls who don’t have access to menstrual products skip school during their cycle, rather than facing the possibility of an embarrassing accident. Eventually, the missed school days add up, making it unnecessarily hard to catch up. Marlow said that giving girls menstrual products lets them stay in school year-round while giving them more control over their lives.
Marlowe’s presentation was very eye-opening, and it gave me a better understanding of what homeless women endure monthly. Usually, when you want to help someone, the last thing on your mind is menstrual products. Before this presentation, I thought the needs of people experiencing homelessness were mainly food and shelter. I was surprised to learn that women who are homeless desperately need menstrual products and bras.
In fact, I Support the Girls has donated more than 8,850,000 feminine hygiene products and bras across the globe, with 50 U.S. and four global affiliates! It is so amazing that I Support The Girls can help to alleviate the struggles of so many women and encourage women to feel good about themselves. In the JumpSpark meeting, we had the opportunity to see pictures of Dana working with volunteers and personally connecting with the recipients of donations. It was very eye-opening to discover what a difference one person can make.
Marlowe had the Strong Women Fellows participating in the call do an activity where we took a menstrual pad and tried to see if we could make it last longer. It was a really cool activity to be able to understand a little bit about the struggles that many women face all the time, regarding having to choose between feminine hygiene products or a hot meal. It is so cool that one person can start an organization that eventually impacts people around the whole world.
Eva’s takeaway: I am always looking for interesting causes, and Dana has certainly discovered one that I would like to help out with in the future. Learning all about Marlowe’s cause was very interesting, but it was also very cool to actually get the chance to meet her virtually! Connecting with people who have made such a positive impact is really inspiring and makes me want to participate in activities that will help others.
Audrey’s takeaway: I learned that you have to be passionate and willing to work hard in order to create change. If you believe that everyone should have access to menstrual products, start volunteering or run a menstrual supplies drive. In addition, I learned that it is my responsibility to help others and to understand the challenges homeless women are facing, because you can’t really help if you don’t know where to start.
Eva, age 15, attends Riverwood International Charter School, and Audrey, age 15, attends Henry W. Grady High School