What’s in your bag?
In honor of Menstrual Hygiene Day, which takes place annually on May 28, supermodel and philanthropist Natalia Vodianova teamed up with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to share what’s inside her bag.
But instead of showing off the usual designer wallets and tubes of lip gloss many celebrities reveal in the popular trend, Vodianova pulled out sanitary pads, cotton underwear, and a bar of soap — all items that people who menstruate have trouble accessing in times of crisis.
Vodianova revealed the items from UNFPA’s “dignity kit,” which is distributed to women and girls directly during humanitarian crises. The kit also includes a toothbrush and tube of toothpaste, rechargeable flashlight, comb, and washing powder.
UNFPA is the United Nations’ sexual and reproductive health agency, which seeks to promote reproductive, maternal, and menstrual health worldwide. Menstruation is a monthly challenge for billions of people worldwide, but 500 million people lack access to menstrual health and hygiene products.
“A girl who cannot manage her menstruation is denied her dignity,” Vodianova said. “Making pads, tampons, and cups accessible is essential to empower women and girls to regain that dignity and avoid terrible consequences to their mental and physical health.”
Discrimination and social stigma surrounding menstruation lead to cases of period poverty around the world. This is particularly true in developing nations, where access to menstrual products is hard to come by, leading many people — primarily women and girls — to miss school during their menstrual cycles. When girls miss out on their education, they are more likely to experience early pregnancy and enter into child marriage, as well as lose the opportunity to gain economic freedom.
Women and girls who are displaced in times of crisis are further at risk. While humanitarian responses attempt to provide essential items — such as food, clothing, and water — to people in need, they often overlook the necessity of providing menstrual hygiene items.
In 2020, UNFPA delivered 1.4 million dignity kits to women and girls in need across 58 countries. The organization is able to provide one kit for every $15 donation. While UNFPA is proud to offer on-the-ground resources to people in need, it also stresses that menstrual products must be widely accessible and provided to anyone who needs them for the health and safety of people worldwide.
“I am proud to work with UNFPA as their Goodwill Ambassador to remind the world that menstrual health is an inalienable right, no matter the circumstances,” Vodianova said. “Let’s use Menstrual Hygiene Day to spread a message of human dignity for women, girls, and all those who menstruate.”