You are here

A $15 bag can make all the difference when crisis hits

NEW YORK / PARIS – The Internet is awash in videos of celebrities sharing the contents of their luxury bags. Natalia Vodianova and UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, have teamed up to show off a different kind of bag: a ‘dignity kit’ for women and girls that contains the essential supplies they need to manage their menstrual health in crisis settings.

This three-minute video, launched on Menstrual Hygiene Day, is filmed in a luxury consumer style, but with a twist. Rather than unpacking a designer handbag, Ms. Vodianova looks through a simple blue backpack, which contains items such as soap, washing powder, a comb, cotton underwear, and disposable and reusable menstrual pads. These are essential items easy to take for granted, but which often become unavailable when crises strike.

“A girl who cannot manage her menstruation is denied her dignity. Making pads, tampons and cups accessible is essential to empower women and girls to regain that dignity and avoid terrible consequences to their mental and physical health,” says Natalia Vodianova. “I am proud to work with UNFPA as their Goodwill Ambassador to remind the world that menstrual health is an inalienable right, no matter the circumstances. Let’s use Menstrual Hygiene Day to spread a message of human dignity for women, girls, and all those who menstruate.”

Menstruation is a monthly challenge for billions of people worldwide, with 800 million menstruating on any given day. They might face barriers to products, sanitation and health, heightened vulnerability, exclusion from public life, and even life-threatening neglect. Those challenges are multiplied in humanitarian crises.

One 26-year-old refugee displaced by the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region recently illustrated just how valuable a dignity kit can be: “The first day I arrived in this camp, I began menstruating. One day, I had to wear stained, bloody clothes all day. Then I sold my only valuable – my Android phone – to buy underwear, cotton and soap to deal with menstruation,” she told a UNFPA representative.

A small price tag for a huge impact

In 2020, UNFPA delivered 1.4 million dignity kits to women and girls in need across 58 countries. The items contained in a dignity kit vary depending on the location. Culturally appropriate clothing may be included, for example. But the essential ingredients are the same, and each kit costs about $15.

Ending the stigma surrounding menstruation and women’s bodies and firmly establishing women’s reproductive and menstrual health as vital emergency health interventions are central to UNFPA’s mandate. In addition to providing women with menstrual supplies and safe sanitation facilities, UNFPA also works to improve education and information about menstruation and related human rights concerns for girls and boys, dispelling dangerous myths about periods.

Natalia Vodianova was appointed as Goodwill Ambassador for UNFPA in February 2021. She is fiercely committed to empowering women and girls by tackling the stigma and taboos that surround their bodies and health and lead to pervasive discrimination and exclusion. With this video, she seeks to raise awareness of the challenges so many face managing their menstruation, and issue a call to action to donate what they can to make a real difference for women and girls around the world.

Notes to journalists