by Toni Tileva
Have you seen a brightly-painted box in our parking lot? Open up inside and you will find a treasure trove of period products and personal wellness items.
Twynbox is a community organization that Marley Vollmerhausen and Noura Coulibaly launched during the summer of 2021 in the Silver Spring area. The boxes work towards ending period poverty, as well as making essential items accessible to houseless individuals or those living in poverty.
Period poverty is the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand washing facilities, and, or, waste management. One study found that almost two-thirds of women in the U.S. with a low income could not afford menstrual products in the last year, while nearly half sometimes had to choose between buying food or menstrual products. Financial barriers, stigma, and poor education around menstrual cycles have forced many into period poverty. The problem has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic.
Research on menstrual health is limited. A 2019 study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology found nearly 64% of surveyed low-income women in St. Louis, Missouri, could not afford menstrual hygiene supplies during the previous year. About 46% of the women could not afford to pay for food and menstrual products, and 21% were unable to afford products on a monthly basis. One-third of them used cloth, rags, tissues or toilet paper, the study found, whereas others used children’s diapers or paper towels because they didn’t have pads or tampons.
As state and local officials become more aware of the issue, states have passed laws to exempt feminine hygiene products from sales taxes or ensure schools are equipped with free products.
“Marley and I have been friends since kindergarten and when the pandemic hit, we had the idea to start Twynbox as we were stuck at home and looking for a way to help others. We wanted to find a way to provide free essentials that would be widely available to anyone who may need them and struck inspiration from the free little libraries,” say Marley and Noura. They set up a wish list on Amazon so they could keep replenishing the boxes.
“We wanted to include our community the most we can by refurbishing old cabinets and getting each box commissioned by a BIPOC artist from the area. In the future, we’d like to see Twynboxes all throughout the country to help fight against period poverty, as well as make essential items accessible to those in need.”
You can help their great mission by donating either directly to the boxes or through contributions.