Fact: Menstruation is stigmatized around the world. Period Poverty, a term which speaks to the lack of physical and educational resources available for the management of women’s menstrual cycle is an ongoing concern, yet the cultural shame and lack of resources continues to go unspoken.
After seeing how Period Poverty impacts women of all ages throughout our local community first-hand,18-year-old trailblazer and Girl Scout Ambassador Maya B. has made it her life’s mission to help. Her Girl Scout Gold Award project “Periodically: Flowing Freely” has been launched in partnership with the MAST@FIU Key Club and sets out to address two major concerns: accessibility to feminine hygiene products and education. We’re proud to say that her project has been more than just well received, it’s been a raving success with 4,500 products and over 200 handwritten cards collected to support this worthy cause.
Maya, who has set out to pursue a future in gynecology will attend University of Florida this fall with a major in biochemistry and minor in Women's Studies. Please join us in congratulating Maya on the success of her Gold Scout Gold Award!
Tell us a little about your project
My Gold Award Project aims to address the challenges surrounding of the lack of education about menstruation and the stigmatism around it. Females should not have to shy away from discussing their periods, be uneducated about how to control their cycle, or have to struggle do to a lack of availability of menstrual hygiene products.
How is your project sustainable? Tell us how it will continue on once complete.
My Gold Award will be sustained beyond my involvement based upon the partnership I developed with the MAST@FIU Key Club. As part of their commitment, they will host an annual period product drive for the lotus house women's shelter. During this drive they will create encouraging cards and collect period products. They will also do a presentation on period poverty at the card making events to increase awareness of the stigmatism and challenges that women face in society today.
What gave you the inspiration to approach this topic the way that you did?
I think there were two instances that really influenced me to spearhead this project. One memory that stands out was I was driving down Biscayne Boulevard in Miami, and it was heartbreaking to see a woman panhandling, let alone panhandling with badly stained pants as a result of her period. Luckily, I had some feminine hygiene products in my bag at the time to give her in hopes it would help. I knew that access to feminine products was a common challenge in our community, but to see it for myself was an eye opener.
My second deals with more of the negative stigma and false teachings surrounding women’s menstrual cycle. During my time as a lifeguard, I had a coworker tell me she wanted to quit as a result of the limitations surrounding the time of the month she could and could not enter the water. No one took the time to educate her on how to manage her period.
The unnecessarily limitations that are placed on women as a result of lack of education and lack of resources really catapulted me to create this project.
Why is this project important to you, personally?
I am a huge advocate for women’s health and this directly ties into my desire to pursue a medical degree with a focus on gynecology. I think the two personal events that happened are what really influenced me to spearhead this project and helped forge my path for the future.
What was the biggest challenge you overcame and how?
Like others, the obstacle I encountered was COVID-19. Starting a project like this in the midst of a global pandemic was definitely a difficult task. It was not only difficult to get into connect with people but also trying to plan events while ensuring safety protocols were met. I spent a lot of time coordinating how I could collect products and cards and distribute them to women in need. I also had challenges coordinating the way that I would do PeriodTalk events. I spend many hours reaching out to various health professionals who never responded. I overcame these challenges by using zoom in lieu of most in-person events. When it came to host the period drive, it required a lot of driving to pick up products/cards and most of the product packaging was done with very few assistance. In regard to seeking out women's health professionals it just took time and patience. Eventually I was able to connect with a few women who were very helpful and a pleasure to work with.
How does this project contribute to your goals for the future?
It helped me grow my huge passion for women's health. Although I did learn so much about being a leader in my community through this project it has also really helped my solidify my passion for women's health. I start college in the fall and already plan to major in biochemistry while minoring in women's studies so that I can pursue a career as a OB/GYN. Through these career goals I plan to give back to my community and help dismantle the health inequities not only in women's health but healthcare in general.
What did you learn about your community in this process?
The most successful part of my project was definitely the period product drive. I never imagined that I would be able to collect over 4500 products and over 200 hand written cards. Seeing our community support this initiative makes me extremely grateful.
What did you learn about YOURSELF?
I have strong collaboration, coordination, and communication skills. It was a great experience to be able to lead, interact, help, and learn from so many talented people. The logistics and promoting the events took a lot of skill as well.
What college will you be attending? Have you declared major?
I will be attending the Honors Program at the University of Florida this fall where I will be majoring in biochemistry and minoring in Women's Studies on the PreMed track.
Girl Scouts has made me a quick thinker, team player, probably solver, and has allowed me to find my sense of self and take on challenges in my community.My Gold Award Project aims to address the challenges surrounding of the lack of education about menstruation and the stigmatism around it. Females should not have to shy away from discussing their periods, be uneducated about how to control their cycle, or have to struggle due to a lack of availability of menstrual hygiene products.