UPICares and Kennedy & Co. Partner to Help Women

By Jessica Lay
Aug. 29, 2018

UPICares team in front of event space in Georgetown

UPICares and Kennedy and Co. recently co-hosted a happy hour fundraiser for BRAWS, a local organization that provides feminine care products, bras, and underwear to women, children, and students who cannot make the items a budgetary priority.

Those who attended the event in the swanky Georgetown district of Washington, D.C., contributed $560, 10 bras, three pairs of adult underwear, and 26 pairs of children’s underwear.  Nineteen boxes of tampons and 10 boxes of pads were also collected, making for a total of 1,034 menstrual hygiene products!

Menstrual inequity effects many populations including (but not limited to) incarcerated women, those that are homeless or living under the poverty line, survivors of domestic abuse, people that are transgender or non-conforming, and youth in schools.

Although the law recently changed in Virginia, women in prisons often do not have access to menstrual supplies and often cannot afford to buy those in the commissary. Those within the prison system or those that are homeless/low-income tend to resort to making their own menstrual devices from low-quality supplies. Forced non-hygienic practices can lead to infection and sometimes serious health implications.

BRAWS Founder Holly Seibold with Madeline Middlebrook and Kathleen Kennedy of Kennedy & Co. speaking to event attendees on menstrual equity.

According to United Way, 30% of our region’s residents are liquid asset poor. That means that many families in D.C. do not have the means to cover basic necessities if faced with job loss for three or more months. Often, this can mean that access to basic necessities like menstrual supplies and underwear is impossible. Some low-income people resort to selling their SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, forgoing meals in order to buy menstrual supplies.

Those fleeing domestic violence circumstances have the potential to lose access to supplies and resources in the process. Due to demand, shelters for survivors of domestic violence often are ill-equipped to provide necessities on a month-to-month basis. Absence of these basics can hinder the survivor’s ability to find gainful employment, continue their education, or re-enter the community with confindence.

Complications to access of menstrual products is heightened for transgender or gender non-conforming students and adults who are forced to use ill-stocked non-gender neutral bathrooms. From fearing for personal safety while opening a pad or tampon inside a male-designated bathroom, to the wage gap that trans and non-binary people experience in the workforce, basic dignities go to the wayside.

Donations table with info. on UPIC and BRAWS

For many children in public schools, the absence of menstrual supplies can lead to missing up to a week of classes every month.

Legislation surrounding menstrual equity in schools has been largely non-existent. According to the BRAWS Report on Menstrual Inequity.  However, California, Connecticut, the D.C., Virginia, Maryland, Illinois, Michigan, New York City and State, South Carolina, and Tennessee have passed legislation in order to provide menstrual products free of charge to students in school. These jurisdictions are expecting an increase in attendance directly related to their efforts.  Jurisdictions report 2.4% increase in student attendance after implementation of these programs.

“We’re not talking about rocket ships; we’re talking about sanitary pads. Yet they both have the same effect. They take you places.” -Diana Sierra, Founder BeGirl2

Donations from last weeks event will be handed out at United Way’s Project Homeless Connect event on September 20th at the DC Armory. BRAWS is expecting 400 or more homeless women and girls to attend in search of supplies. If you or your company would be interested in volunteering at this event, please contact a BRAWS volunteer coordinator at info@BRAWS.org.

BRAWS, UPICares, and Kennedy & Co. formed a great partnership to provide hope, dignity, and resources to those in need. A full report on Menstrual Inequity can be read here.

Author Jessica Lay is UPIC’s Program Lead for UPICares, the organization’s philanthropic initiative.  She spends half of her time assisting patients through UPIC’s contact center and recently completed a degree in Aging Services Management. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @UPICHealth.

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