For many women, sanitary pads and tampons are simply another item on the grocery list to be picked up after work. But for those who have had to flee their war-ravaged countries, travel across hostile nations without food or rest, and finally finding refuge in one willing to take them in, access to menstrual supplies is complicated, sometimes even impossible.
A new crowdfunding project called Worldwide Allies for Menstrual Supplies aims to help female refugees in the German town of Kleve address that important, but not automatically obvious, issue.
The project goal is to raise €2,000 ($2,240 USD) to distribute one year's worth of menstrual supplies and a week's worth of underwear to 20 refugees in Kleve.
The project is the brainchild of Canadian-born, Germany-based student Aislinn Beaulé. When the refugee crisis started making headlines, Beaulé read an article about how women in Syrian refugee camps had no options other than using leaves or newspapers when on their period, increasing their chances of infection.
"It really shocked me," she told A Plus in an email. "I guess I always took it for granted how easy it is for me to get whatever I need every month. I decided then that I should do something about it. Though I couldn't reach the refugees in Syria, I could help out the ones living in my region ... A lot is being done to get clothes and shoes because there are a lot more men then women arriving, but I think it is still important to make sure that women's basic needs are met even if they are in fewer numbers."
Some 300 refugees are currently in Kleve, Beaulé said, 100 of whom are staying in a gym.
The money raised will go to creating kits equipped with the basics — pads, new underwear and wipes — and put in bags so distribution can be discreet in places with little privacy.
The Gender and Diversity student hopes to eventually expand her project to other regions.
Amid horror stories coming out of some countries in Europe in their treatment of refugees, Germany has been a beacon of light. The country is expected to spend $6.6 billion taking in 800,000 hungry, exhausted people fleeing their war-torn countries, and its citizens continue to stun the world with their warmth in welcoming new arrivals.
Not everyone knows how they can help, but this is one way to do it. "This money might not change the world or solve the refugee crisis, but it will definitely help improve the lives of many in and around Kleve," she wrote in the crowdfund page.
"You might not be able to volunteer to help the refugees in your area or you might not be in a country who is currently receiving a large number of refugees, but a donation from your part will go directly to helping people who need it. I have had a lot of friends tell me that the whole situation is overwhelming and they do not know how to help, well ... Here is your answer!"
Update: Beaulé later told A Plus that the campaign is now in partnership with the online store Little Bee Creations, where people can order reusable pads from as a donation, instead of money.