All girls deserve access to clean, safe feminine hygiene products. It shouldn’t matter where you are, where you live, or what your income is. If you are a woman, you deserve access to these products. That’s why the Ms. World Feminist Club at LaGuardia High School of Music, Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan, New York is starting a drive for clean, unopened feminine hygiene products that will be delivered to girls in Africa through the American Foundation for Children with AIDS.

We want to help end the stigma about menstruation in third-world countries where girls cannot attend school due to the embarrassment, fear, and poor handling of their normal menstrual cycle. Girls are forced to use leaves, filthy rags and newspapers that can lead to severe infection. Sometimes, they are forced to squat outside in the dirt because A. they have nothing to use, and B. they are considered unclean and dirty by their families due to their menstrual cycle. Sometimes girls feel forced to engage in transactional sex to buy sanitary products, which puts them at an even larger risk for STI and HIV infection. Even if they have the products to use, sometimes they don’t have a SAFE, sanitary place to change their sanitary product at school. These girls deserve so much more than what has been handed to them, and we want to help make a difference in these young lives.

That is the main reason we are doing this, but its not the only one. We also want to help end the idea that menstruation is something to laugh at, something to make immature and sexist jokes about. When someone brings up the point of a woman in political office, so many people immediately make jokes about how “oh, we don’t want a woman in office, she’ll declare nuclear war when she’s on her period!” and that isn’t okay. We want to END stereotypes and empower women everywhere. I don’t expect everyone at my school to take our cause seriously, not at all. But I know that there are so many people who want to help at my school, boys and girls, students and teachers. I’m hoping that we are the first step to helping end this stigma. I’m hoping that when we raise our voices, others will join in. I want these girls to know that they are worth so much more than they are being taught, than they are being told. We stand with our sisters everywhere, to empower all of us, and that’s why we are doing this.