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I Support The Girls Founder and Executive Director Dana Marlowe On Empowering Women

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At Social Sunday, empowering women is always at the top of our minds. It is written into the very core of who we are. We are always searching for ways to collaborate with other like-minded individuals and organizations who are out there in the world trying to improve women's lives. One extremely important factor, that is often not addressed when we think about supporting women who are dealing with poverty or homelessness, is their access to vital items like menstrual products and bras. Dana Marlowe, the founder and executive director of I Support The Girls, an organization that collects and distributes bras, maxi pads, and tampons to women all over the world, is doing everything that she can to change that. 
(Photo via I Support The Girls)

I Support The Girls got its start as Dana's passion project and has to date assisted over 350,000 women. The organization helps to ensure that a woman never has to choose between affording her next meal and her dignity. Dana's valiant efforts have afforded her the nickname “The Accidental Bra Fairy”. We sat down with Dana to discuss how she got her start, what it’s like to balance your daily priorities while simultaneously running a super impactful organization, and learned how we can help the cause. Read on for more.

Q: We are so exciting to be partnering with I Support The Girls with our Empowerment Collection! First off can you give our readers a bit of background on the mission of the organization?
D: Thank you, the energy is definitely contagious! Through an international network of affiliates, I Support the Girls, collects and distributes essential items, including bras, underwear, and menstrual hygiene products, allowing women experiencing homelessness, impoverishment, or distress to stand tall with dignity, but it’s more than that. It’s reshaping attitudes and perceptions around homelessness and menstruation. We are hopeful that a combination of our donations, coupled with our advocacy efforts will change minds and policies regarding a woman’s basic right to her health. 

Q: The need for bras and feminine hygiene products is often overlooked when we think about items to donate to charity. Why do you think that is and how is I Support The Girls helping to change that?
D: Considering that a Maine politician recently said that female inmates shouldn’t receive free access to menstruation products, as it would make jail too much like a ‘country club’, I know I have my work cut out for me. Many people are grossed out by menstruation and due to stigma and few want to address it. Other times, it’s innocuous, and menstrual products may be overlooked in budgets. Plus, in over thirty states, menstrual products are still subject to a sales tax, when most health items are not! They are expensive and out of reach for many who have to juggle how to spend limited funds.

I Support the Girls is hoping to smash those stigmas with awareness around menstrual equity. We shed a light on how every woman deserves a safe and healthy period that is accommodated no matter what her situation. Periods don’t stop when you’re homeless or fleeing a natural disaster. By having pads in the public light, they become less shameful to ask for and seen as what they are: a basic necessity to support a woman’s health.

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Just hanging around.

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Q: Out of all the amazing things I support the girls is doing for the community (we can’t believe you’ve donated 500,000 bras!) what is the most rewarding aspect?
D: Beyond the wonderful women I’ve met who have been recipients of our donations, it’s the sheer volume of the donations that I find rewarding. In three and a half years in operation, we’ve donated over 500,000 bras and three million menstrual products. I know that my organization can’t end the reasons why people may be homeless or without income, but knowing that we helped a woman in a small and intimate way makes this incredibly rewarding.

Q: We are in awe of how you balance a full time job and motherhood all while running I Support The Girls. In short, can you provide some tips on how others can get involved (even with a busy schedule) to support the initiative?
D: That’s a great question—my colleagues say I don’t sleep, and believe me, I do! But every method to give back is beneficial. Of course, you can donate money via website, which helps us continue our work across the country.  We welcome product and time donations too. We always accept donations of gently used bras or even open boxes of sealed hygiene products. We have a list of affiliate locations on our website so you can find the nearest drop-off location. You can also consider organizing a collection at your place of employment, recreation, school, religious institution, and more. Our affiliates are always looking for volunteers to help sort and distribute too.

We are also looking for advocates. Be vocal about the need for menstrual products in prisons, nurse’s offices, hospitals, and more. We have volunteers who help us with packing parties and help distributing, so please reach out to us for a few hours of fun packing and sorting.  The future of I Support the Girls depends on advocates sharing our mission and personal striving to right the wrongs of a society that unfairly discriminates against a woman’s basic health function. Plus, if our mission has inspired you, let us know on social media! (Linked below)
 
Q: What projects does I Support The Girls have lined up for the rest of 2019? How would you hope to continue to expand this year?
D: While we are always grateful for more donations and agencies to partner with, as we enter our fourth year, we want to be better advocates. There is no reason in 2019 that women should be fighting for access to menstrual products that are priced out of reach or fighting against the perception that they don’t deserve them. We want to appear more publicly to abolish the Tampon Tax officially across the United States, whether through rallies, op-eds in newspapers, articles, television interviews, and more. This is an issue that must be brought to light for public policy and minds to change.

From this advocacy, we will then work to ensure that schools, prisons, hospitals, and other places of public accommodation have access to menstrual products for those in need without having to worry about the shame in asking.

Q: Any advice for girls who want to make a difference in their communities or start a charitable project? 
D: Take the plunge and do it. Don’t worry that you don’t know everything because I certainly didn’t. It is essential to have your mission firm and to not compromise on your principles. I Support the Girls was created by chance, but with a good foundation. Have a solid foundation of friends and a network of trusted people who can support you along the way. Doing good is hard work, but the reward is totally worth it.

Social Sunday is partnering with I Support The Girls with our Empowerment Collection. 10% of proceeds from the collection will be donated. We are also accepting donations via this link.

Want to share the momenutmeal work being done by I Support The Girls? Share their social media with your community:

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