New Resource Center for Refugees Brings Dignity through Hygiene to Athens

Athens, Greece: The Unmentionables Resource Center will be opening on January 13, 2018 in Athens, Greece with the aim of providing a safe place for refugees to receive intimate health classes and services, as well as a free “shop” where they can pick up products needed to preserve their human dignity and meet their intimate hygiene needs. This new resource center will be operated by Texas-based nonprofit The Unmentionables and its opening is funded by a generous donation from the organization’s lead ambassador, model and fashion designer Kimora Lee Simmons.

According to recent estimates from the UNHCR, there are 65.6 million displaced people in the world. Despite undergarments and personal hygiene products being basic needs, they are among the most inconsistently provided items during migration crises due to worldwide cultural taboos and lack of funding. When they are available, they are often distributed openly alongside other non-food items, creating a potentially uncomfortable and embarrassing situation for the person receiving these items. Choice is also not a common occurrence, resulting in refugees receiving products that they might not feel comfortable using or that do not fulfill their needs.

“Have a heavy menstrual flow in a refugee camp? There might only be panty liners available, if you’re lucky. Want a condom? They’ll be difficult to find. No matter where a person is, intimate health products are critical and must be given in a way that preserves dignity,” says The Unmentionables CEO and cofounder Kaleigh Heard. At The Unmentionables Resource Center, refugees who lack access to basic hygienic products, including menstrual hygiene products, underwear, bras, and condoms will be able to “shop” for these essentials. This setup allows them to select the products they need and prefer. This helps to preserve human dignity and reduce waste by ensuring that people will not be given products they will not use.

The new center’s priorities focus on building trust, consistency, and human centric design to empower refugees with dignity through hygiene. It will also provide safe, consistent sexual and reproductive education and care to displaced communities in Athens. Free sexual and reproductive health education classes will be offered, and medical professionals with a variety of specialties will also be present at the center for individual consultations.

In the short span of a year, The Unmentionables has already supplied more than 115,000 intimate health products to forcibly displaced people in Greece, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Egypt, and the USA. In 2017, the organization also launched a photography based empowerment program, UnExposed, giving young refugees the tools and opportunity to tell their own stories. So far, The Unmentionables has provided sexual and reproductive health education to over 2,700 individuals and will continue to expand its education program offering, including livelihood programs and training refugees to be intimate health education leaders in their own communities.

Donations to The Unmentionables Resource Center can be made here:
https://theunmentionablesglobal.org/dignity-warehouse/

Daniel Berberi