I thought nothing about a recent dash to the store for a box of tampons until I heard about Zoey Cook's trip to Africa.
The Creighton University senior told me about visiting Namibia, where in poor, rural areas, especially, affordable feminine hygiene products can be nearly impossible to find. People get creative, using cloth and even leaves. But that’s hardly fail-safe. And because girls get bullied for bleeding through their clothes, they don’t go to school when their cycles come.
If you think talking about periods makes people squirm here, imagine rural Namibia, a country in southern Africa that is culturally conservative. It also has one of the largest wealth gaps in the world, putting even inexpensive products out of reach.
It’s so shameful during that time of the month, that girls will quit school when they start menstruation. Or they’ll just skip on the days of their cycle.
Zoey, a Hastings, Nebraska, native was shocked. And motivated to help. The Spanish and psychology major might not be able to do much about poverty, but she could buy some menstrual pads. And she could encourage others to help, too.
After her two-week trip to Namibia over Christmas last year, she returned to Nebraska and started a social media campaign to raise money for an organization in Namibia called Sister Pads that teaches women how to sew waterproof, washable, reusable menstrual pads, then distributes those pads to school-age girls and offers women's health education. When the first $100 donation came in, Zoey said she danced.
In a one-month blitz, she raised $1,200 and sent that to an American living and working in Namibia.
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“I thought no one would care,” Zoey said. “But then women started donating. I was talking to my adviser, and she was saying, women understand. Being a woman can connect you.”
It connected with me. The cost and accessibility of feminine hygiene products can be an issue even in the U.S. Charities like homeless shelters ask for donations of female products, and so do aid organizations after natural disasters.
Zoey’s help won’t cure poverty. But it might keep a few girls in Namibia in school when they otherwise might have called it quits.
And in raising some cash, she also raised this: Awareness that periods can become, for many women, exactly that: An endpoint. When it shouldn’t be.
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Lincoln Pius X's Blake Vodicka gets tackled by Millard South's Tate Hinrichs No.34, and Kohl Herbolsheimer, No. 75 at Buell Stadium.
Third-graders from Nelson Mandela Elementary play with masks during the unveiling of Omar the troll under the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.
Courtney Dobson, an intern at First National Bank, is among the first Creighton students taking advantage of a FinTech program.
A broken portrait of Chief of Staff of the Air Force. Gen. David L. Goldfein lies on the flor of the 55th Security Forces Squadron building after flooding in the spring damaged it at Offutt Air Force Base.
Lt. Col. Chris Conover puts on a mask to protect him from the mold in a flood damaged hallway inside the 55th Wing Headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base.
Deborah Lowndes has accused a doctor of touching her private body parts while she was unconscious during surgery. Lowndes is seen here with her personal protection dog, Jakoby. She got Jakoby after the incident with the doctor. She said Jakoby helps her to feel safe.
Garrick Tramp of Austin, Texas, shaved his head to show his husker spirit for the Nebraska vs. Colorado football game.
Joe Sova, left, and Terrence O'Donnell cheer on the Nebraska football team during its football game with Colorado.
Husker fan Luke Hood of Littleton, Colorado, sports a corn hat during a football game against Colorado at Folsom Field.
Nebraska pitcher Kyle Perry blows a bubble during the first fall practice at Haymarket Park.
Diana Gleisberg, left, and Jason Meredith take a photograph of themselves in front of the Orpheum Theater during the opening night of the musical "Hamilton."
Tay Diamond and fiancé Bre Diamond fish from the pier at the Walnut Creek Lake and Recreation area.
Creighton head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth talks with her players during a timeout in a volleyball match with the University of Nebraska Omaha.
UNO's Sami Clarkson reaches for a dig during a match against Creighton. Creighton University played the University of Nebraska Omaha in a volleyball match at Sokol Arena.
Bart Beattie, of Sumner, plays catch with his brother Preston (not pictured) before the start of the Nebraska vs. Northern Illinois football game.
Jim Linafelter of Sergeant Bluff, Iowa and other Husker fans celebrate a third down stop for Nebraska's defense against Northern Illinois during the first quarter.
Nebraska Cornhusker fans move to and from their seat as the sun sets during the game against Northern Illinois.
Nebraska's Adrian Martinez greets fans following Nebraska's 44-8 victory over Northern Illinois.
Mist from a near by fountain splashes Alanna Leeder, of La Vista, and her children Bella, 7, Nolan, 10, and Roman, 2, as they explore a walking path at Civic Center Park.
Nebraska's Lexi Sun, back, watches as Lauren Stivrins pancakes her hand on the floor to make a save against Stanford at the Devaney Sports Center.
Nebraska's Callie Schwarzenbach, right, goes up for a block against Stanford's Madeleine Gates at the Devaney Sports Center.
Water rushes around road closed signs near Rosewood Road and 145th Street near Honey Creek, Iowa. High water is still a concern in some areas.
An American bald eagle sits in a tree near Crescent, Iowa.
Crews freed a person from a pickup truck near 60th and Harrison Streets after a dump truck tipped onto the pickup, pinning one person inside.
Brandi Smith performing the role of Hannah Moses dances with Dara Hogan playing the role of Zalla Sweetly during the play called Red Summer at The BLUEBARN Theatre. The play is about the Omaha race riots of 1919.
Nebraska's Cam Taylor-Britt intercepts a pass intended for Illinois' Daniel Barker in the first half at Memorial Stadium.
Nebraska's Maurice Washington leaps over Illinois' Jake Hansen on a five-yard run late in the second quarter at Memorial Stadium.
A Spined micrathena spider hangs from a web in the morning sun at Mandan Park.
A mangora orb weaver spider hangs out on a web in the morning sun at Mandan Park.
The Rev. Steven Boes, the president and executive director of Boys Town, grabs a soft drink during an announcement ceremony for the opening of Heartwood Preserve.
Officer Nathan Waller, and horse Orozco alongside officer Jill Schillerberg and horse Zane participated in the 8th Annual Domestic Violence March and Rally.
Event organizer and domestic violence survivor Heather Duhachek-Chase of Omaha is embraced by Stephanie Strong during the 8th Annual Domestic Violence March and Rally.
Nebraska's Yvan Ouedraogo, left, runs through a passing drill during basketball practice at the Hendricks Training Complex.
Annette Wetzel, the executive director of special events & protocol at UNL, photographs Nebraska alumnus Gerry Rehm in front of a College Game Day themed Coca-Cola truck east of Memorial Stadium.
The Westside Warriors take the field through fog and a banner before a high school football game against Creighton Prep at Westside High School.
Nebraska's Cam Mack dunks the ball during Nebraska basketball opening night at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The Husker men's basketball team joins Rick Ross on stage following the Nebraska basketball opening night scrimmage at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
A Nebraska fan walks along 10th Street as it begins to rain before Nebraska takes on Ohio State.
Drum major, Jacob Coughlin, of the University of Nebraska Cornhusker Marching Band tests his flexibility prior to the game against Ohio State at Memorial Stadium.
Gabrielle Union, left, and her husband Dwyane Wade play with their daughter Kaavia James Union Wade before the start of the football game against Ohio State.