Health & WellnessLifestyles

Maintaining dignity

‘My Period, My Pride’ hosts in-person and virtual seminar for a broad reach

Dignified Girl Project (DGP) continued its mission to promote menstrual equity and to educate and empower adolescent girls by equipping them with the knowledge and tools to manage their period hygiene. “My Period, My Pride” seeks to educate girls on period management and period hygiene, to embrace their period, and to destigmatize period-shaming.

“Session information increases self-perception and empowers girls to attend school and engage in extracurricular activities more comfortably and confidently,” said Phillipa Dean, DGP founder.

The organization recently hosted its fourth seminar incorporating both in-person and a livestream to ensure a broad reach as they explored topics with the young women that included understanding puberty: a social, behavioral and psychological perspective with Nadia Cash, clinical psychologist; and financial literacy for teens presented by financial advisor Lakeisha Rolle.

They also explored the girls’ understanding of puberty from a biological perspective with pediatrician Dr. Tamarra Moss, as well as finding the right fit when it comes to what they should use as far as disposable pads, washable pads, the period cup, tampons, and the period panty with Andranique Bethel, guidance counselor. Patrice Lockhart spoke on pain management, nature’s way.

Gynecologist Dr. Nikecha Hall-Dennis addressed common reproductive health concerns and what they should know about endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), as well as how to prepare for a gynecological visit. The lone male presenter ,Dr. Ancilleno Davis, a scientist, spoke to the young ladies about the role of men and boys in reducing menstrual stigma.

As it reverted to in-person for its seminar, DGP, at the height of the pandemic, continued to ensure that every child and adolescent girl had access to feminine hygiene essentials and education. And was able to do so because of donations which helped the project help the ladies that needed them.

“We are so grateful for the donations and the awareness that is bringing in the donations,” Dean previously told The Nassau Guardian.

Because of the pandemic, Dean said DGP found itself distributing products more frequently after the country confirmed its first COVID-19 case on March 15, 2020. And they distributed more frequently than they were designed to on a monthly basis rather than quarterly because the demand increased.

Due to the increased demand, Dean said DGP, in turn, had to step up their solicitation game, and that the public responded in kind, donating generously, which resulted in them donating thousands of units.

“Partnerships connect us to the community, and partnerships make a difference, as we are able to help those people with the greatest need,” she previously said.

DGP offers two kits – an undergarment kit comprised of singlets, bras, and new underwear; and a menstrual kit that is comprised of soap and either tampons or pads. They offer women a choice, because she said when it comes to menstruation management, it’s all about preference.

The demand for their services also called for them to increase their distribution centers with community-based programs in the inner cities and open a distribution center in North Eleuthera.

Dean told The Nassau Guardian in 2018 that her long-term goal is to reach at least three Family Islands.

DGP started in August 2017. She said COVID-19 brought about more awareness of the NGO, and what it does, to the populace.

“Times like this cause persons to become more aware of what the organization does and awareness of the Dignified Girl Project is something we’ve been trying to increase for a while. And although persons are aware, the need for it didn’t strike people as far as how important it is until now – when people who are going through tough financial times, now realize there is a need beyond food, water, electricity and rent. There are core needs that exist for females inside of crisis and outside of crisis, and I think COVID-19 made people realize that need and opened up the eyes of so many people, that the need for this basic item is to being biologically female,” she said.

Dean also noted an increase in their volunteer base, which she attributes to increased awareness, due to COVID-19.

Phillipa Dean, Dignified Girl Project founder, demonstrates the proper way to apply a sanitary pad.

DGP also focuses on helping the girls understand their period, track their period, learn how to manage period symptoms, and gives them all the options to assist in choosing the best products for themselves.

She said they want to present girls with alternatives and options because they found that very often many girls just think that disposable pads are the only options.

Since she was a teenager, Dean involved herself in charity work. It was during a counseling session with an unemployed mother, who was experiencing financial challenges, that she witnessed the woman break down — in what seemed to be the “straw that broke the camel’s back”.

“Do you know what it’s like to not be able to buy your teen daughter a new bra?” Dean recalled the distraught mother asking her. “I was like … is this woman serious? She was very serious.”

Following her session with the distraught mother, Dean said she made a promise that night that she would do something about it, and form an organization to ensure that young women received new bras and panties. The Dignified Girl Project was the result. Dean sought to provide undergarments, quarterly, which are basic needs, to girls in need between the ages of six and 17 years old.

Dean spent just over $1,000 of her own money to purchase intimate garments for her first distribution ranging from training bras and singlets to extra-small, small, medium, large, extra-large and 2X to cover the gamut of sizes.

It was in August 2017, that she and her team of volunteers took to streets in the East Street community with 100 bags of bras and panties to distribute, free of charge, to girls for the first time.

“When we did that initial walkabout, we thought 90 bags was a lot — but it didn’t go very far, especially when we came upon homes where there were more than, like, five women and girls living there,” she recalled.

It was during that first distribution, she said, that they quickly realized how great the need was – and for more than just new undergarments. She said it became apparent that basic hygiene products — toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, sanitary products — were also needed. Dean and her team decided to take on the challenge of adding feminine care products to the original packages.

“Oftentimes, we think about the shelter and the food and the water and the clothing that we put on children, but we rarely think about the intimates. They’re basic needs. And they need new ones regularly — not just when it’s September, and it’s time for school. So, I was like, this is a basic need, and no mother should have to shed tears over this, and no young girl should have to be concerned that when she’s changing [for physical education], that someone’s laughing at her torn bra. I made a promise that night, in that session, that I would do something about it, and form an organization that would make sure that young women had new bras and new panties. And once we did our first distribution and got feedback, we realized that more was needed. We got bombarded. I was shocked. The response is what kind of confirmed for me that the need was great.”

In January 2018, the DGP held its second distribution. It was at that point, Dean engaged the assistance of church groups, community groups and civic organizations to assist them, who knew of people in their communities who needed the assistance most, rather than engage in another walkabout, as she also realized the danger a walkabout could pose to a team comprised of women.

“After the first walkabout, during which it was very hot, we realized we lost so much time because people were stopping us and talking, so we didn’t get a very far reach and time got away from us very quickly, and I was like, to do this every quarter is going to be very taxing, physically,” Dean told The Nassau Guardian in an earlier interview.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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