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Hollins Against Period Poverty Initiative (HAPPI)


Hollins University, International Partners, YAP Inc. Community - March 28th, 2024


The international peer forum is a monthly convening of global partners (Ireland, Australia, Guatemala, Sierra Leone, US) & fellows with local hosts who collectively decide on what the yearly goals and topics are— the identified goals are as follows: Share practice innovations, solidarity and support, international advocacy, cultural learnings, building YAP international brand and collective story.


Two students from Hollins University, Ti-Shawn Wellington ‘25 and Charvi Gangwani ‘24, who were part of Dr. Lindsey Breitweiser’s “Introduction to Gender & Women Studies,” which is where the H.A.P.P.I. (Hollins Against Period Poverty Initiative) campaign was created. On the peer forum call, Dr. Breitweiser led a brief discussion regarding menstruation (personal knowledge/cultural perceptions of menstruation) that ultimately led to this phenomenon called “period poverty.” 


Through the works of students, the collaboration between Hollins and YAP Inc. has been called “H.A.P.P.I.” because although this is an experience that can be traumatic, marginalizing, we want to focus on ways we can better those experiences. She brought up an integral question to the conversation: How can we find joy in education, knowledge, and activism surrounding menstruation?  H.A.P.P.I. is a collaboration between YAP Inc., HU, Sierra Leone Youth Advocate Programs, and Hollins University Black Alumnae with the intent of developing richer cultural understandings/backgrounds for creating a strong grasp on what period poverty is and how it affects people. This collaboration holds potential to create study abroad opportunities, bridging cultural understandings and experiences, and promoting cultural exchanges among students of varying backgrounds. 


“Period poverty is a global issue signifying an inability to manage periods with dignity. It signifies a lack of access to safe, hygienic menstrual products; private space; and waste management.” From this definition, this is about the individual experience, family, community, government, infrastructure, and the socio-cultural context which arises. 500 million girls or women worldwide experiencing period poverty. Dr. Breitweiser proceeded to share a 2017 survey of 187 low-income women in St. Louis, USA which revealed the following information: 

  • 64% unable to afford menstrual supplies during the previous year 
  • 21% experience this monthly 
  • 46% had to choose between food and period products in the last year 

Explosion of housing and food insecurity recently, especially post-pandemic raises the question: How are people going to deal with menstruation or feed their families? It is also necessary to recognize individuals who have a relationship to period poverty, including: men who have no understanding of it, trans, gender-queer, non-binary, and gender nonconforming experiences. The remainder of the peer forum involved participants dividing into break out groups to discuss their individual experiences with menstruations. Dr. B provided discussion prompts: 

  • Were you taught about menstruation? 
  • What were you told about the process? 
  • And if no one told you, what did you have to learn on your own? How did you manage without anyone teaching you?

H.A.P.P.I. marks a significant step forward in addressing the pervasive issue of period poverty. Through initiatives like the HAPPI campaign, spearheaded by dedicated individuals such as Dr. Lindsey Breitweiser and students like Ti-Shawn Wellington and Charvi, efforts are being made to tackle the multifaceted challenges surrounding menstruation with dignity and compassion. The international peer forum serves as a platform for global partners to come together, share best practices, advocate for change, and foster cultural exchange. By engaging in discussions that encompass personal experiences, cultural perceptions, and socio-economic factors related to menstruation, the forum sheds light on the diverse realities faced by individuals worldwide. Moving forward, the collaboration holds promise for creating meaningful change through education, advocacy, and community engagement. By amplifying voices, sharing resources, and fostering empathy, we can work towards a future where menstruation is not a barrier to education, health, or dignity. Together, we can strive for a world where everyone has access to safe, hygienic menstrual products, and no one is forced to choose between their basic needs.


If you’d like to contribute towards this initiative, we are raising money to assist with addressing period poverty in Sierra Leone. Donate to Sierra Leone YAP (SLYAP) (

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