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Be Girl: underwear designed to change the world

Be Girl Period Underwear

Hey, girls. Do you recall the years between 9-15, eagerly awaiting your first period?  As the child of a nurse (and adamant sexual educator), I carried around a Limited Too purse with panty liners from the age of 8. You know… just in case. And when that day finally came some years later, I was prepared… thrilled, even! I had made it to womanhood!

Now, can you remember celebrating for one long week, then being so very over it? You ruined a few pairs of underwear, embarrassed yourself in gym class, and then started looking forward to the other three weeks of the month. Your period became a minor burden, and you managed it. In the grand scheme, nothing really changed (well, besides your fertility…), right?

Imagine if that weren’t the case. According to girleffect.org more than 250 million adolescent girls live in poverty; that’s 250 million girls without access to proper supplies for menstruation management. For these girls, hitting puberty can be devastating. They face the same stigma of getting their period, but are without tools to manage it.

Here’s something that should blow your mind. “UNICEF estimates that 1 in 10 school-age African girls either skips school during or drops out entirely because of menstruation-related issues.” In places where women are predisposed to poverty, lack of education can be the very thing that determines their future. After overcoming financial obstacles, familial obligations, environmental factors, and social barriers to be in school in the first place, the final push into poverty is often something as simple as their monthly period.

Girl falling into poverty BeGirl graphic

What’s a girl to do?

Be Girl is a social enterprise that strives to empower girls in poverty to manage their bodies with dignity. Their simple mission is to break the poverty cycle through a pair of functional underwear.

Be Girl Panties Packaging

Intended to be a 2-in-1 solution, the BeGirlPanty is both a pair of panties and menstrual protection. With elegant shape, and a leakproof nylon inner layer, the BeGirlPanty allows girls to slip in whichever safe, absorbent material they have access to — be it paper towels, wool, or scraps of cloth — for leak-free protection.

Closer view of Be Girl Period Underwear

Designed for long-term use, the BeGirlPanty is easy to wash, quick to dry, and created with the end user’s needs in mind. That means no more stained uniforms, no more shame, more days at school, and the chance at a future free of poverty.

Girls overcoming poverty gap in BeGirl.org graphic

Graphic from BeGirl.org

What can you do to get involved?

1. Watch the Video

2. Support the Be Girl Campaign

UPDATE: Be Girl hit their funding goals on their Kickstarter campaign! Still want to help? Shop their website to participate in their Give One, Get One program.

Be Girl is jump starting their operations with a Kickstarter! To create a more sustainable way of giving, they’re using a “give one, get one” model. When you donate $25 or more, you’ll give one EmpowerPanty to a girl in need and receive one yourself.  How might you use yours? The panties are an eco-friendly alternative to traditional pads, and are great to have for extended travel.

If the period panties themselves aren’t of use to you, you can also elect to receive an Everyday EmpowerPanty, a beautifully designed pair of undies that shows your support for the cause.

Be Girl underwear held by two hands

What makes Be Girl different?

  • Design: Every girl likes nice underwear! The Be Girl panties aren’t only highly functional, but they’re also beautifully designed. The pair you get will be the same as the pair donated.
  • Distribution: Products are distributed by local organizations who request them. Through the EmpowerBank, donated products are “banked” and allocated where they can be best utilized. This can mean anything from giving out panties in conflict areas, to providing them to organizations with a track record of promoting gender equality, to offering them as a micro-loan to small scale entrepreneurs.
  • Education: Products aren’t simply dumped on a community. Instead, they’re placed in the hands of an organization that knows the local need. They are then provided to girls along with menstrual hygiene education, and use results are surveyed over a 3-6 month period.
  • Research: Be Girl was designed with girls in mind, and the product has been tested in various environments. Be Girl is a dynamic organization committed to continually adapting the product to better suit local needs.

Have your interest? The ladies (and gentleman!) in charge are genuinely thoughtful and innovative. I expect some big things coming up for them. Find out more about Be Girl products and the girls they’re serving on the Be Girl site, or stay updated by liking them on Facebook or following them on Twitter. Thanks for your support!

Let’s Discuss!

Here’s a big question. What do you think is the most effective way to alleviate global poverty?

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Alex
    January 5, 2016 at 9:57 am

    Great idea and interesting concept.
    My only concern is the design. Why don’t you let the girls in these under serviced communities lead the design- instead of giving them a product which may be too flashy/deemed culturally inappropriate, or draw unnecessary/unwanted attention.

    Once again- great idea, and great start.

    • Reply
      Stephanie
      January 5, 2016 at 10:21 pm

      Hi Alex,
      Stephanie here from Be Girl. Thanks for sharing your concern. We practice human-centered design – so the girls were part of the design team when the product was created. It started in the shape of a sanitary pad, but with the same mesh pouch and waterproof back. We kept iterating and going back to the girls for feedback and input — that is how we ultimately ended up with the product you see here. 🙂 The girls asked for beautiful, bright colors – which is how we got our name. One of the girls told us the product made her feel proud to ‘be girl.’ I get what you are saying – not every culture enjoys bright colors which is why we work with our NGO partners on an individual basis to customize certain aspects of the panties to meet cultural needs. Cheers to you and thanks for caring enough to comment!

    • Reply
      Taylor Record
      January 7, 2016 at 9:24 pm

      Hi Alex, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts! Certainly my biggest concern with many "give one, get one" programs is that the product isn’t always practical for the recipients, but as Stephanie said, these particular designs were inspired by the girls that use them. You’re definitely right that the bright colors may not be suitable in all cultures!

      The part that resonated with me most about the organization is their commitment to adapting the product to ensure their usefulness. I’d expect that as their operations grow, we’ll see a whole range of new colors and product offerings to better suit the end user! Appreciate your feedback!

  • Reply
    Sarah
    January 17, 2016 at 3:35 am

    This is an absolutely awesome design concept! I appreciate the thoughtful concerns and the equally thoughtful responses. Here’s to helping girls and women worldwide!

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