The Unmentionables: Spreading Dignity Through Personal Hygiene
Starting the new year in gratitude, I wanted to focus on philanthropy. It can be refreshing to think about others rather than ourselves. Likely, many of us take for granted the fact that we are easily able to access feminine hygiene products, contraceptives, even basics such as bras and undies. In other areas of the world, that is not the case.
Megan Beck, the COO, was volunteering in Greece and noticed that there was a need for new, clean underwear. She mobilized her personal network and was able to raise enough money to buy thousands of pairs from local suppliers while she was there.
Shortly after her time there she co-founded The Unmentionables non-profit to continue to make a difference in the lives of refugees by providing the basic dignity of hygiene. They provide supplies such as underwear, feminine and intimate hygiene products, sexual health products, and family planning related education. Their teams directly ask refugees what their needs and preferences are for these products to make sure they are matching needs and expectations. The products are then sourced locally to further provide a boost to vendors in the communities.
Another amazing thing about this organization is that rather than using money to support an office space, all of their team members work remote. These funds are directed into projects instead.
The team carefully selects areas all over the world to distribute donations and service where they are needed most. They have completed or have current projects in the following locations:
When asked how the areas are chosen to focus efforts on, Communications Director Victoria Borisch said, “On a strategic level, we analyze socio-political trends and early indicators for conflict that may result in displacement. Following a wave of mass migration, we identify areas that are already WASH secure and look at the options for a project through a security and risk assessment as our work requires it. From there, we find partners already on the ground who can help us carry out our work.” To summarize, they look for qualified areas of need working with local vendors to help support their efforts. So inspirational!
The length of time of the projects varies as the areas of need are constantly shifting. Some projects only go on for a limited time whereas others are ongoing. This is all dependent on where the help is needed most.
How Can I Donate?
There are multiple ways to support this amazing philanthropy such as a one time donation, recurring donation or even organizing your own fundraiser.
If you donate through their website’s Dignity Warehouse or Needslist you can even designate what type of supplies you would like the money to go towards. Because their donation structure is primarily monetary, the organization is able to support local economies while supplying refugees with a dignified shopping experience for their personal hygiene needs. By working with local suppliers this helps ensure they get the best price, cuts down on international shipping time and reduces logistics costs.
You might be thinking, “why can’t I just purchase undies or feminine hygiene products and send them as a donation?” In the long run this ends up costing more which is why the local business model was chosen. In some scenarios where vendor partnership is not available, the Unmentionables work to partner with multinational corporations for in-kind donations to satisfy the need. Additionally, because the the team is able to monitor what products the refugees favor and are using, this helps make sure what is in demand is available.
What Are They Up to Now?
In January of 2018 the Unmentionables team opened The Unmentionables Resource Center in Athens, Greece. This center will offer safe, consistent and trustworthy sexual and reproductive education as well as provide undergarments, feminine hygiene products, and sexual health products. Through their Dignity Dollars system, they will provide their shoppers with the dignity of choice when it comes to these personal and intimate products.
This location will also house their UNexposed photography program giving refugees the chance and empowerment to tell their story through their eyes rather than what’s portrayed by the media. The Unmentionables team leads students through a 5 week intensive photography course. The students then have the ability to sell their photographs and 100% of the proceeds go directly back to them, providing them with a sense of financial freedom, helping them journey towards a happier life all while spreading awareness.
The team needs your help to be able to sustain these efforts so they can keep shelves stocked and continue to maintain their programming. Donate directly through the Dignity Warehouse or through their Needslist. By donating to this cause you are empowering others and supporting the dignity we all deserve as human beings!
To learn more about the variety of programs and ways you can help, visit The Unmentionables website. They are approaching this issue with such grace and care. I am truly inspired by their work.