Being homeless is one of the worst things that can happen to human beings and nothing upsets me more than to see people living rough, which in London is a tragic and constant thing. I am aware when I see a homeless person that they must be cold, hungry and probably thirsty, but what never occurred to me before now, I am ashamed to admit, is that women living rough will spend one week of every month trying to deal with their periods, with little access to toilets and no money for tampons, something unimaginable to most of us.
But thankfully, as I was incredibly inspired to read about this morning, 18 year old Nadya Oamoto, a freshman at Harvard University has founded a nonprofit organisation, Camions of Care, that distributes menstrual hygiene products to homeless women. This comes after Nadya's mother lost her job when she was 15 and Nadya and her siblings spent seven months legally homeless. During her time in temporary accommodation she understandably didn't want to be spending what little money she had on tampons.
Since then she has moved to Portland and says that on hr commute to high school, she met other homeless women who told her that they had no access to menstrual products and used old paper bags, cloth or newspapers. Not forgetting of course that the consequences of poor menstrual hygiene include bacterial vaginitis, urinary tract infections and toxic shock syndrome - despite this many homeless shelters don't supply them.
Nadya said in an interview with BuzzHealth that: "first of all, these women are even afraid to talk about their periods, let alone advocate for themselves and ask the shelters for menstrual products, because there's such a stigma. The whole thing is a vicious supply-demand cycle which prevents homeless women from getting the menstrual hygiene products they so desperately need. I couldn't sleep thinking about what these women had to go through and how there was no organisation dedicated specifically to improving their menstrual hygiene."
So after she was back home and financially stable she founded Camions of Care: "it's a youth-driven nonprofit that strives to manage and celebrate menstrual hygiene through advocacy, education, and research."
She said that the second time she delivered care packages at a local homeless shelter that one woman started crying because she was so shocked that anyone cared about her period: "that moment still makes me cry too, because I realise how important this truly is to women."
One package comes with nine tampons, five panty liners and four magazines and it costs Camions of Care just $1 to make it, due to donations. In the past 2 years the nonprofit provided for over 25,000 periods in 17 states and nine countries.
Nadya hopes to expand to break the period stigma and make menstrual hygiene more accessible all over the world. THANK YOU NADYA. HIGH FIVE. BIG HUG. YOU'RE AMAZING. Don't stop being incredible and inspiring and changing lives!