What is an activist? To my understanding, an activist is any individual entity who earnestly acts towards a cause, in the hopes of yielding a certain result against an injustice, whether collectively with a larger group or singularly. I use the word “acts” in the definition because, although it may be repetitive to the word being defined, its generality is essential. In other words, it is the only term broad enough to encompass all that is needed to make an activist. 

An act can be as simple as spreading awareness by word of mouth or reposting an informative piece on social media, to protesting in front of the White House. There are a multitude of acts that fall scattered across an immense spectrum, all of which serve as important assets to an activist. 

Now that I have defined the mere role itself, I beg the question… who is an activist? 

Rather than simply stating the answer, I want to invite you into the context of a real, ongoing issue that is prevalent in our world today. 

Around the globe, girls are struggling and fighting for a means to receive their education. They face barriers unfair to humankind, brought upon by their own natural biological processes. Sexist ideologies and devastating myths fence them in both psychologically and physically from reaching their full intellectual capacity. This sets them at an extreme disadvantage, ultimately serving as a devastating injustice.   

Where does this drawback actually stem from? Despite the irony, I believe it comes from a lack of education. 

The ongoing presence of poor menstrual education ultimately feeds into the downfall of girls’ access to a full education globally. Lack of government funding and priority buds from a wide scale neglect of understandment. For how can one visualize the importance of something when fully dependent upon false stigmas? 

Devastating myths of menstruation being dirty, an indication for marriage and shameful, allow governments to get away with financial abandonment towards young girls universally. As societal perception remains veiled behind ostracism, seclusion and banishment, government funding aligns in unison, leaving victims to fend for themselves at a cost. 

As stated by period poverty activist Amika George, “800 million girls around the world miss school for a week every single month and, yet, no one was trying to solve this huge problem that shouldn’t be a problem.” Putting this into perspective, according to another study, one in four girls struggles with a lack of menstrual products. Further, also shared by George, those who choose to still go to school often have to utilize unsanitary alternatives, such as socks, newspapers, and toilet paper. The absence of menstrual education impacts a large majority of female youth in a negative way that also, silently, targets society.

If all girls were to receive a good quality, 12-year education, according to Malala Fund, the benefits that would be reaped include a boost of $30 trillion to the global economy, a creation of jobs, slowing the effects of climate change, reducing poverty, and cutting  “the risk of war in half in developing countries.”

Are we to ignore this detrimental issue running rampant throughout the world, especially throughout third-world countries? Are we to do nothing but merely sympathize from the comfort of our own home, where sanitary pads are stuffed in our bathroom cabinet, ready at any given moment to be packed for school? What about the psychological warfare being created in these girls’ minds between their natural biological functions and clouded misconceptions?

Here’s where the question, “Who is an activist?” comes into play. The reality is that any of us at Fairfield University, whether we be students, faculty or staff, have the potential to become an activist at the blink of an eye. As I shared in the beginning of this article, the beautiful thing about becoming an activist is the freedom surrounding the directions you may take. 

Support of these young girls is the best way for us to aid in the placement of menstrual education, thus creating a waterfall effect to the reversal of stigmas and governmental negligence. Through self-conducted research, reinstituting normalcy, relaying affirmations and charity work, we can further spread awareness and information on menstruation, as well as the importance of menstrual hygiene funding for low-income families, globally. 

Social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook serve as an excellent mechanism for posting vital information and updating viewers on the importance of this issue. I, myself, created an Instagram account (@fairfieldmakesanimpact) where I posted educational content on the severity of the cause and how to donate to my fundraiser. There are also multiple organizations present to work with in the support of these young girls. 

You may choose, for example, to lend your assistance to the organization Alliance for Period Supplies, where you can either donate directly through their website, create your own fundraiser or drive by following their guidelines, or “join their alliance” through the creation of your own program. You may also choose, as I did, to donate directly to or sign petitions for Malala Fund, where your proceeds will benefit their Education Champion Network.  

An even simpler way to work on reinstating the true narrative surrounding menstruation and the importance of putting an end to period poverty is sharing the stories of girls who have utilized their education in a highly impactful way. As shared by Malala Yousafzai in an interview with George, when more people see for themselves what “educated girls can do,” it helps normalize and affirm girls’ capabilities and “why education is so valuable.”

It is important to note, however, that these mechanisms for impactful activism are not strictly for this particular cause. Malala Fund, although near and dear to my heart, is not the only organization, nor is this injustice the only one. As we have all surely seen, there are thousands of social injustices still being fought against on a wide scale and millions of organizations to accompany them. 

I can only encourage Fairfield University students, faculty and staff to take the time to become an activist. If this cause is not one that particularly strikes you as it does for me, take the time to find one that does and become involved! What you will learn along the way from others and your findings will not only benefit those working with you, but also yourself immensely. 

Just take action, no matter how small! You never know what may positively influence the world around you. 


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