Over 75,000 Products Distributed to Refugees in The Unmentionables’ First Year
Austin, TX: The Unmentionables launched on October 31, 2016 with the mission to provide dignity through hygiene to refugees around the world. In the short span of a year, this non-profit organization has achieved incredible success, providing 75,312 intimate hygiene products to date to displaced people in five countries. Since its inception, The Unmentionables has partnered with more than 22 international organizations, built a remote team of 30 volunteers spread across four continents, and now operates in six countries: Greece, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Egypt, and the USA.
Undergarments, condoms, and menstrual hygiene products are often overlooked in crisis situations leaving many, particularly women and girls, vulnerable. The Unmentionables fills this gap by providing refugees and other displaced people with these basic necessities, according to a Smart Aid model. The model ensures that products are purchased locally whenever possible, distributed in a dignified manner, and comprehensive needs assessments are completed prior to distribution to identify which products are wanted and needed, so that nothing goes to waste.
According to CEO Kaleigh Heard, "The Unmentionables was created a year ago to fill the gaps that no one wanted to talk about. Many organizations we encountered were distributing ripped and stained underwear, refugee women and girls were managing their periods with garbage, and asylum seekers were resorting to unprotected survival sex to put a roof over their heads. The gaps in service were massive, the indignity of the situation alarming."
In addition to product distributions, the organization has also launched education programs that aim to empower and protect refugees from disease, infection, sexual and gender-based violence, and help provide confidence. Through in-depth photography education and mentoring, The Unmentionables’ new program UnExposed aims to give a voice to young refugees and other forcibly-displaced people by giving them the opportunity and skills to share their story through their own eyes. Photographs are now available for purchase, with 100% of the proceeds going to the students themselves. Not only does the UnExposed program teach a valuable life skill, but it also gives the students a sense of purpose and dignity. More education initiatives are expected to be piloted in the next year.
At the beginning of The Unmentionables’ first year, Greece was the focus for distributions, primarily in Athens and Chios. Volunteers worked together with women’s centers and locally-based organizations in refugee camps to deliver products and related education seminars. Following on the success in Greece, the organization turned to Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, and Egypt. With the help of locally-based organizations, The Unmentionables provided thousands of reusable menstrual hygiene kits, education, and training programs in these countries.
When the devastation of Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and one million people were forced to flee, The Unmentionables, which was founded in Texas, joined in the effort to help its neighbors. Though not a disaster relief organization, The Unmentionables saw the same need experienced by refugees in other countries and jumped in to provide dignity through hygiene to the people who needed it most. With the help of a number of volunteers, local businesses, and fashion model and designer Kimora Lee Simmons, The Unmentionables provided over $42,000 worth of products to the affected area.
Reflecting on the achievements of the past year, The Unmentionables looks forward to the future and providing dignity through hygiene to even more people around the world.