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Graduate student seeks to de-stigmatize menstruation; provide sanitary products for women in need

One graduate student from India has begun to realize that problems there may exist in America as well.

Arpan Yagnik is a graduate student in Communication and started a program called “Keep It Flowing,” which provides sanitary products to women in need. His research in health communication is about the topic and he focuses on de-stigmatizing menstruation.

Yagnik started thinking of a campaign to provide sanitary products to women in Wood County in January and February 2013, but he started doing something about it this past summer.

He said the reason there hasn’t been a program like this before is because of the stigma around menstruation.

“One of the things I have found out is this topic is not talked about,” he said. “Communication about it is silencing or has a negative connotation.”

At first, Yagnik focused on the stigma around menstruation and the treatment of women who were menstruating in India, but after speaking at the University Women’s Center, he realized some of the problems are the same in America.

He shifted the focus to women in Wood County and has since been working with the Women’s Center to collect and donate sanitary products to local agencies.

“I’m just trying to increase chatter about this topic,” he said. “Once it is established as a social issue or a social problem, there will be discussion about it.”

Yagnik and the University Women’s Center have collected close to 10,000 sanitary hygiene products.

The Women’s Center now has an undergraduate intern to help with donations and pick up of the products.

Erinn Smith, a junior women’s studies major, is the intern currently helping with “Keep It Flowing.”

Smith helped make a functional distribution process, called local agencies and got the supplies ready for pick up.

“There’s a need,” she said.

The project currently helps about 20 local agencies, food pantries and shelters. Smith said the agencies have said they haven’t received help like the help “Keep It Flowing” provides in the past.

“They absolutely have a need for that,” she said. “It’s been really nice to know we’re really helping the people that need these products.”

Shirley Kleist, president of Perrysburg Christians United food pantry, said she has gone and picked up sanitary products to offer at the food pantry.

“It’s something expensive for women to have to put out money for,” she said about sanitary products.

While the food pantry doesn’t have a lot of people looking for the products, Kleist said when they’re on the pantry shelves, people will take them.

When women don’t have the sanitary products they need, the world is “neglecting 50 percent of the population because all women go through it,” Yagnik said.

In India, women can die due to not having the proper sanitary products. They may have to resort to using dirty rags or products found in the trash which can lead to infection and even death, he said.

Yagnik said students shouldn’t run away from the problem.

“It is an important aspect of not just a woman’s life, but society as well,” he said.

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