Bras and menstrual products are expensive, but no woman wants go without them. This can put low-income women in a tricky situation. University of Connecticut pack leaders recognized this issue and decided to use their position within the Protect Our Pack program to do something about it: Protect Our Pack and the Dean’s Office have partnered with I Support The Girls to host a bra and menstrual product drive, lasting through May 10.
I Support the Girls is a national network of affiliates that “collects and distributes essential items, including bras, underwear and menstrual hygiene products, allowing women experiencing homelessness, impoverishment or distress to stand tall with dignity,” according to their website. The bras and menstrual products Protect Our Pack collects will be redistributed through the Connecticut I Support the Girls affiliate to homeless and domestic violence shelters, foster care, LGBTQIA2+ agencies, disaster relief and others, according to Jenn Longa, assistant dean of students for victim support services and bystander initiatives.
Fourth-semester psychology and human development and family studies major and pack leader Hannah Lavoie said the drive is important because it will bring attention to women’s issues that many people may not think about.
“Women who are homeless cannot afford menstrual products or bras which can make their lives extremely uncomfortable,” Lavoie said. “Not having access to things like menstrual products can keep women from obtaining jobs or going to school.”
Menstrual products can put an unnecessary financial strain on women, according to eighth-semester communications and women’s, gender and sexuality studies major and pack leader Alexandra Mastorakis.
“These products are expensive, and although they are necessary for women’s reproductive health, they are still taxed as luxury items, often making it more difficult for women, especially homeless or low-income women, to access,” Mastorakis said.
While access to menstrual products and bras may not seem immediately pressing at UConn, the collection aligns with the goals of Protect Our Pack.
“The main message of Protect Our Pack is supporting bystander initiatives and teaching students how to step in and help in situations where there would otherwise be no one there to do so,” Mastorakis said. “When we support causes like I Support The Girls, it takes that message and expands it to a larger community.”
Pack leaders often present on campus about bystander initiatives and sexual assault, and Longa gives a Protect our Pack presentation to all incoming freshmen and transfer students, but the pack leaders really wanted to end the year on a project that expanded beyond the UConn community, according to Longa.
The Dean’s Office is the primary collection location for any donations, according to Longa, but they would happily provide a collection box to any other group or office who would be willing to support the drive. Longa or graduate assistant Madison Maynard would also be able to pick up donations from other locations. Donated bras should be new or gently used and menstrual products should be newly packaged.
“At a base level, Protect Our Pack focuses on helping those around us,” Lavoie said. “While our presentations focus on sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking and alcohol and other drug use, at the end of the day we educate the student body on how to step in and help in varying situations. The same can be said for this drive. Everyone who is donating bras and menstrual products is stepping in and helping those around them to assist those in need.”
Alex Houdeshell is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.