How it all Started
My name is Diandra Kalish. I am the founder of Untabooed. This is my story of how The DivaCup inspired me to fight for access to menstrual products for all.
On April 6th, 2013 I bought a one-way ticket to Quito Ecuador. My dad passed along a travel blog written by a solo female traveler, crediting it for the excellent hiking boot, travel backpack and water purifying straw recommendations. He had assembled these items in the perfect college graduation gift. When I checked out the blog, I noticed another packing essential: The DivaCup.
I had never heard of a menstrual cup, but after some research, I decided it would be wise to get one for my trip. I purchased a cup knowing that I would get to test it at home first. If it didn’t work out, I could pack a separate suitcase full of tampons.
My immediate discovery: I loved it!
Fast Forward to January 2015
In early 2015, I had moved back to the United States and was living in Brooklyn working for an education nonprofit. By this point, I had convinced some of my friends to try out a menstrual cup too. One evening, an article online caught my eye. It described the struggles that many homeless women face each month trying to get access to menstrual products.
I was shocked and enraged by this. As someone who consistently donates food and clothing, I had never thought to donate menstrual products. I started to do research and found that organizations around the world provide menstrual health education and reusable menstrual products to girls and women who can’t afford them. A big issue in many places is that access to products and health education is limited, holding girls and women back from opportunities.
As I did more research over the next few weeks, I started considering that the root of the problem could be the taboo surrounding the topic of periods. I was finding that many shelters don’t ask for the products directly. This means that people do not even think to donate to the need. When shelters do have the products, women typically have to ask a manager for one.
It should be a basic human right to have access to all of the products that you might need in the bathroom. I was also thinking about how convenient The DivaCup has been for me, and how much money I had saved by using it. I started to think more and more about how great a solution like a menstrual cup would be for women who might not have access to anything else.
In May 2015, putting all of my research, curiosity and frustration together, I founded UnTabooed.
The mission of UnTabooed is to break the taboo surrounding menstruation by providing menstrual health education and sustainable menstrual products to those in need.
UnTabooed is unique from other similar organizations in two key ways. First, we work only with reusable menstrual products, specifically cloth pads and menstrual cups. This helps us provide a long-term solution to the problem of access. In doing so, we make sure no one has to worry about menstrual care for an entire year. Second, UnTabooed focuses on education. Our programming consists of a one-hour educational workshop that covers the basics of the menstrual cycle and menstrual hygiene. The workshop also includes an introduction to reusable menstrual products. After the workshop, participants receive products of their choice.
With the help of Diva International and other producers of reusable products, UnTabooed has educated over 600 menstruators, set up seven community and four college partners, and distributed over 1,000 reusable menstrual products for free to menstruators in the Northeast United States. We have also reached over 100 more through events and workshops at colleges and universities. In total, we have helped our workshop participants save over $250,000 and reduce menstrual product waste by 5,000 lbs.
What’s Happening Now
After two years, UnTabooed has been acquired by PERIOD. The Menstrual Movement.
PERIOD is a global youth-run non-profit that strives to provide and celebrate menstrual hygiene through advocacy, education, and service. In the last two years, they have addressed over 78,000 periods through 43 nonprofit partners in 27 states and 14 countries. Additionally, they have 65 campus chapter at universities and high schools around the United States. PERIOD has the passion and youth driven leadership to bring revitalized energy to the menstrual equity movement. PERIOD will enable UnTabooed’s curriculum to grow nationally through their Campus Chapter Network. UnTabooed will help grow PERIOD’s support of sustainability in period product usage.