Jess Strait

Pronouns: She/Her

Hometown: Abingdon, VA

Major: Applied Data Sciences B.S.; minor in Food & Bioinnovation

Role at Penn State: President of Days for Girls at Penn State

Interests: yoga, sewing, cooking, listening to music, true crime. Passions: data-driven solutions for sustainable agriculture, advocating for and working towards menstrual equity

What does women's empowerment mean to you?

Women's empowerment to me means equal and active participation for women in our world. Days for Girls strives to ensure that menstruators are able to participate in school and work without interruption due to their monthly period. By sewing and distributing reusable menstrual health kits, our club works to provide menstruators with 3-5 years of sustainable education and dignity during menstruation. I also believe that women's empowerment is a global challenge: socioeconomic issues such as period poverty are often viewed as externally concentrated outside of the Western world, when even in the United States alone, one in five menstruating teens have missed school due to their period. Days for Girls PSU also works to advocate for menstrual health education and access at Penn State through product drives, programs providing free menstrual health products to students, and leading educational sessions on menstrual health. Women's empowerment initiatives should begin in our own communities and extend throughout our world. Finding strength in menstruation and viewing it as a marvel of health and human survival is a cross-cultural, inclusive project: menstruating, its cultural taboo, and its impact on civic involvement opportunities for women influence entire communities. To me, empowering women means recognizing that traditional "women's issues" need to be addressed and championed by all, regardless of gender identity or biological sex. When women have the opportunity to succeed, the communities around them share in their success.

What is something that you want others to know?

In my work with Days for Girls, the greatest piece of advice I share with any new member is to get comfortable talking about periods. Whether you're talking with men or women, family or friends, classmates or administrators, the stigma around discussing periods contributes to period poverty for menstruators worldwide. In Kenya, the country whose period taboo inspired the founding of Days for Girls International, menstruators sat in their homes on cardboard for days to conceal their menstruation. In the United States, pads and tampons are seldom donated to food pantries because it is more culturally accepted to express food insecurity than period insecurity. In Philadelphia's backyard, menstruators reportedly trade sexual favors for menstrual products. We are fortunate to be in a position to discuss menstruation without fear of cultural shunning or isolation. Getting comfortable talking about periods is the first step to making it comfortable for those in need to do the same.


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