A journey of a young girl providing a solution to end period poverty and fighting for gender equality through innovation.

At 14 Aanya Patel, a high school student founded Global Girls Initiative, a non-profit organization in Tampabay. She fights every day for girls to have equal rights to education by providing access to period products and ending period poverty. Period poverty is a lack of access to period products & inability to afford period products and not having proper education to manage your menstrual cycle.

After speaking at the Hillsborough county school board meeting and advocating for more than two years, in January 2022 Aanya started working with the district to install menstrual hygiene dispensers in all the Title I high schools as a pilot program. The “Learning with Dignity” menstrual hygiene dispenser initiative will provide direct access to period products for students in the Title I high school bathrooms. This will allow students to feel more comfortable attaining classes, being able to participate in school activities, not missing out on school days despite having their period, and reaching their full potential. After doing research on dispensers she realized that the ones that are available on the market can range from $350-$800 and only use a specific brand of pad distributed by their own company. She wanted to provide more cost-effective dispensers and one that would allow for any brand of pads to be placed inside the dispenser. Aanya was able to provide an innovative solution by designing and branding a menstrual hygiene dispenser that is not only cost-effective but able to use any brand of pad. She wanted to provide a sustainable solution that will allow schools to host their own period product drives to collect pad donations which can be used for the dispensers. Additionally, she was able to receive a 53,000 pad donation from Procter & Gamble’s Always brand which will help kick start the initiative. This initiative will impact over 15,000 girls and students in Hillsborough county. The district is working to also place dispensers into all the Title I middle schools by 2023.

As she is getting ready to celebrate Period Action Day on October 8th, 2022 she will be working with the University of Tampa to provide the dispensers around the campus for students to have direct access to period products. Aanya’s goal is to continue her “Learning with Dignity” initiative to provide direct access to period products to students in Pasco, Pinellas, and other neighboring counties and to move across the state to end the period poverty where no student ever has to miss out on their education, activities, or sports despite having their period and reaching their full potential.

Aanya has created two programs for the Global Girls Initiative to provide access to period products and proper education to maintain their cycle with dignity.

The Kindness Matters program provides free period products to students in Title I schools, youth-serving organizations, children with disabilities, and refugee centers. Having access to the period products makes girls feel more comfortable attending classes, being able to participate in school activities, and not missing school despite having their period to reach their full potential. No girl or student should ever have to miss out on their education because they lack period products. Aanya has donated over 350,000-period products to students and youth in underserved communities.

She calls her second program Period Awareness with Dignity & Self-Esteem (PADS) Program which provides free educational workshops for girls to better understand their reproductive health, build their confidence & self-esteem in making empowering decisions on their bodies, and manage their period with dignity and positivity. At the end of each workshop, girls receive a makeup bag full of period products and 3 month supply of pads to manage their cycle with dignity. No student should ever have to go to a nurse’s office asking for period products. One goes to a nurse’s office when they are sick. Having your period is normal and not an illness. Aanya is currently working with the Baycare wellness program team to help more girls manage their cycles and donates period products.

Aanya was recognized at the Tampa Bay Lighting game as the “Goal Getter” by Advent Health on April, 22, earned the “Spirit of Community Award” by the Florida Commission on the Status of Women, earned “The Prudential Spirit of Community Award” for Florida, “The President’s Volunteer Service” award by Ameri corps & Points of Light, and awarded “EveryDay Young Hero” by Youth Service America.

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