What began with providing bras and menstrual hygiene products to homeless women grew to a movement to support the diverse population impacted by period poverty.
“When I came out to my family, I got a negative response that I never thought would come out of my mother’s mouth. As a non-binary person, I struggle with dysphoria related to my chest and periods. Finding what can alleviate my dysphoria is a constant struggle.”-M.S.
M.S. is one story out of dozens that we receive daily: transgender folks desperate for binders that will help them feel more like themselves; mothers fleeing their abusive husbands with only the clothes on their backs; and menopausal women pleading for anything to alleviate their symptoms when they have no additional funds.
I Support the Girls (ISTG) began in 2015 by providing bras, underwear, and menstrual hygiene products to homeless women. Since then, we have donated more than 17 million products to over 3,500 social service organizations. We go beyond meeting just a physical need by restoring dignity through a properly fitted bra and resources to manage a period.
According to Global Citizen, period poverty is described as the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand washing facilities, and/or waste management. After serving more than 1.7 million people, we see the multi-faceted nature of period poverty and the broad population it affects. Not all women menstruate, and not all menstruators identify as women.
Getting a good start
Our mission includes all people impacted by period poverty, especially those overlooked in society. We donate to correctional facilities, foster care agencies, domestic violence shelters, LGBTQ+ organizations, Native American Reservations, and more.
When COVID-19 caused a 35 percent increase in product requests, these populations suffered the most. We knew we could do more. As a result, we established the “-ASH Kits,” direct-service programs that send customizable care kits to meet the specific needs of three overlooked populations.
In October 2020, we launched the D.A.S.H. (Dignity, Aide, Safety and Hygiene) Kit, a custom care package for people fleeing a domestic violence situation. The kit sends a 3-month supply of menstrual hygiene products, underwear, bras, and essential toiletry items to a safe address. It also includes a list of domestic violence resources.
According to the CDC, 1 in 4 women will experience physical violence by their intimate partner at some point during their lifetimes. COVID-19 caused people to quarantine with their abusers, exacerbating this issue. Since starting this program, ISTG has helped over 260 people restart their lives.
After the success of the D.A.S.H. Kit, our team developed the idea for the “Flash Kit.” The Flash Kit helps people experiencing menopause who cannot afford items to alleviate their symptoms. In the United States, 1.3 million women are experiencing menopause annually. While “first periods” have gained traction in the media, menopause is still not talked about. This program provides relief for symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness with lubricant, cooling towels, essential oils, incontinence underwear, and more.
In June 2021, we launched our third direct-service program, the Slash Kits, which stands for the slashes between pronouns. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, 1 in 5 transgender individuals have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. It’s harder for them to be approved for housing due to discrimination, and they are more likely to get kicked out of their homes earlier or run away due to non-acceptance from families. Managing your period while homeless is tough, and managing your period while trying to live authentically even more so. The Slash Kits provide their choice of period care, binders, bras, shapewear, makeup, and other affirming toiletry items upon request.
Our -ASH Kits embody what I Support the Girls hopes to accomplish as an organization: meet the specific, intimate needs of those overlooked in society, and restore dignity while doing so. While the -ASH Kits provide necessary physical support through bras, menstrual hygiene products, and other essentials, they also tell people: “You matter.”
“I would be forever grateful for this opportunity because it would help me understand what makes me feel good and what doesn’t and help me in the affirmation of my gender identity. I have decided, despite all the consequences that may follow, I want to be myself. Receiving this kit will allow me to start sooner rather than later and continue to push myself to never hold back.”-M.S.
To learn more about our -ASH Kit Programs, or to sponsor a kit for someone in need, please click here.