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Donation Drive Connects Philly Residents with Menstrual Hygiene Products

The Center for Global Women’s Health partners with local organization Cycle Sisters to distribute period products to Philadelphia’s most vulnerable populations.

The Center for Global Women’s Health (CGWH) sponsored a donation drive for period products this fall. The School of Nursing publicized the event, and students, staff, and faculty across campus contributed to the cause. Following the collection, CGWH partnered with local organization Cycle Sisters to distribute the items to those in need. Working together, CGWH and Cycle Sisters are making strides in their shared mission to reduce period poverty right here in Philadelphia. 

Cycle Sisters co-founders Tolulope Oyetunde and Ayanna Chambers advocate for menstrual health education and greater access to period products for vulnerable populations, including low-income and minority youth and homeless individuals. Oyetunde, who is in the Master of Public Health (MPH) Program at Penn, became aware of the pressing need for increased access to reproductive health resources while mentoring high school students in her work with the Public Health Pipeline Program, an initiative that deepens high school students’ understanding of public health. Inspired to spark change and help some of the city’s most underserved individuals, Oyetunde and Chambers started Cycle Sisters in March 2018 and led their first successful donation drive the following fall. 

CGWH collected a total of 714 period items, including tampons, pads, soft cups, and urinary incontinence products. These items will be part of Cycle Sisters’ inaugural pantry at the Eight Diamond Community Center located across from the Woodstock Family Center in North Philadelphia. The pantry will stock “anything that makes someone feel comfortable,” said Oyetunde. Lightly used bras and new packages of underwear as well as general hygiene products, such as soap and lotions, will be available to patrons. Open Monday through Friday, the pantry prioritizes accessibility and convenience. Guests will be able to choose the items they need most and are able to return for more at any point. Cycle Sisters will then track each item’s popularity to help plan goals and targets for upcoming drives.

In addition to their North Philadelphia pantry, Cycle Sisters distributes menstrual hygiene products on the streets and in HUB of Hope, a homeless resource center in Suburban Station run by Project Home. Cycle Sisters will continue this method of distribution, which Oyetunde said was received well. “We were called bag ladies because we would have all these products and we would just go to center city and hand them out,” Oyetunde reflects.

The Cycle Sisters co-founders are excited about their work so far and eager to continue the momentum. Looking ahead, they hope to increase the frequency of their donation drives and open pantries in different neighborhoods in the city. Oyetunde and Chambers remain passionate about connecting youth with reproductive health resources and programming and hope to partner with schools and community centers in the future. Oyetunde has already developed a curriculum on menstrual hygiene and wellness, which she implemented this past summer in a boarding school in Nigeria. Thinking about her work in the U.S. and abroad, Oyetunde said, “I’m very passionate about this now that I’m doing it in Nigeria and Philadelphia…There is a widespread lack of access all around. That is what is fueling me to continue doing this.”

Working with dedicated volunteers in the MPH Program at Penn and with partners like CGWH and the Center for Public Health Initiatives (CPHI), Cycle Sisters is excited to expand its services and reach. Oyetunde said, “It’s also very encouraging and inspiring that more people are talking about menstrual health”

Readers can donate to Cycle Sisters’ menstrual hygiene pantry by mailing donations to:
Ayanna Chambers
1500 Market Street, LM 500
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Check @CycleSistersPHL for more information about upcoming donation drives on campus and in Philadelphia.

 

WRITER:  AMY SMITH