IOWA CITY — About one in 10 girls in Africa do not attend school during their periods because they do not have feminine hygiene products, the United Nations Children’s Fund estimates.
That’s something the Iowa United Nations Association and other organizations are hoping to change with the U.N. Empower-Her project, which aims to make disposable and reusable feminine hygiene products accessible to females across the globe.
For the Tuesday launch of the Empower-Her project — and to celebrate U.N. Day — the Iowa U.N. Association is hosting an event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at the association’s office at 20 E. Market St. in Iowa City.
The project aims to raise awareness about the need for feminine hygiene products, said Andrea Cohen, executive director of Iowa UNA.
The project also will give feminine hygiene kits to Iowa shelters, crisis centers, food pantries, schools and prisons, Cohen said.
The good news, Cohen said, is that many organizations across Iowa are already helping.
Iowa UNA is partnering with the Iowa City-based chapter of Days for Girls International, which distributes tampons and pads in Iowa and across the world. They also offer reusable pads distributed internationally, which are often sewn by local volunteers.
But accessibility and education about feminine hygiene still is an issue in Iowa, Cohen said.
“A lot of people think ‘why should it even be a problem in the United States?’ ” Cohen said. “It is.”
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Students at Iowa City already have taken the steps to help Iowans and are partnering with Iowa UNA on a statewide campaign.
During the 2016-17 school year, City High students and members of a Girl Scout troop organized the collection and distribution of disposable pads and tampons.
Cohen said Susan Poulton, the school district’s health services coordinator, will be speaking Tuesday about efforts to continue the project.
Cohen said a petition also will be available to sign Tuesday calling for passage of House File 506, a bill in the Iowa Legislature’s Ways and Means Subcommittee that would eliminate the sales tax on feminine hygiene products.
“Feminine hygiene products, from the tax point of view, are considered a luxury item,” Cohen said. “It’s absolutely not.”
Cohen said the Iowa UNA is hoping to provide 500 hygiene kits and collect $1,000 and donations of pads and tampons in the next six to eight months.
“There are so many things that people donate to,” Cohen said. “This is another one, and this is a choice. I hope they choose us. If others become excited and want to do something about it (outside of Eastern Iowa), please do. Become part of this effort to get women healthy, keep girls in school, respect their human rights.”
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