SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On Saturday, September 18, Teen Times kicked off its pilot project to provide high schools on St. Maarten with a mini pantry filled with female sanitary and hygiene products. The Sundial School was chosen for the project which is being supported by Prime Distributors, Kooyman and the students of the NIPA General Property Maintenance Course.
The project is part of the group’s campaign to combat “Period Poverty” on St. Maarten, by having government pass legislation mandating free access to sanitary hygiene products in public spaces, including schools (see related story). Period Poverty is defined as inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and education, including but not limited to sanitary products.
Teen Times explained that On St. Maarten, when less fortunate youth are mentioned, rarely is the problem of health and hygiene included in this context. “As Teen Times, we can attest to the vast amount of teenage girls primarily, but boys as well, who do not have access to sanitary hygiene products on a regular basis. These products are costly and sometimes parents are forced to choose between hygiene and putting food on the table.”
“We believe in the worldwide movement that is making access to sanitary products free in certain public locations, in particular schools. We have seen young women use crude creations to replace sanitary pads and even re-using pads because sadly, they have no choice. We can no longer sit by and not try to remedy this issue, at least while they are in school,” Coordinator of Teen Times Nichele Abreu-Smith said, adding that products for male students will also be added.
The initiative calls for the provision of small pantries filled with free female and male sanitary products in secondary schools. Once in place, the schools will provide these products only in cases of need to students in school. Sundial received the first pantry on Saturday. The material to construct the unit was supplied by Kooyman with the students of the NIPA General Property Maintenance Course building it. Prime Distributors provided all of the products.
Director of the Sundial School Mireille Regales-Peterson was on hand to receive the pantry and products. She said that the school tries to provide sanitary products to those in need in school, but budget limitations affect what they can do. She acknowledged that the stigma around menstruation is very real among female students who are sometimes very timid or ashamed to ask for a sanitary product. She thanked Teen Times and its partners in the endeavor which she said will go a long way and is very necessary.
Prime Distributor’s Brand Manager for the “Always” and “Gillette” line of products, Renata Richardson-Drijvers described the project as vital and perfect in-line with the community initiatives the brands want to support. She said an entire program has been created around the project to ensure that the brands can maintain the provision of the products. “We are proud to be part of this project and look forward to supporting additional pantries in other schools as well,” she said.
Kooyman’s Commercial Officer Evencia Carty-Seabrookes said: “The team at Kooyman was on board from the moment this initiative was brought to our attention. Each year we reserve donation funds for poverty alleviation projects and have intensified our efforts since the start of the COVID pandemic. We are truly grateful for our partnership with NIPA who have helped us realize this donation and we look forward to maintain our support towards this cause.”
Abreu-Smith explained that Sundial School will be the pilot of the project for this school year after which it will be evaluated before moving to setup pantries in the other schools.
“Access to menstrual products should be a right, and feeling clean, confident, and capable during one’s period is a necessity. We can all work toward menstrual equity, and the opportunities are boundless. Whether it’s advocating for free products in our schools like Teen Times is doing, spreading period positivity on social media, every action has a ripple effect. We believe that menstrual equity can only be achieved when period products are accessible, safe, and destigmatized. Girls should not be ashamed of their period. So that conversation has to start as well,” Abreu-Smith said.