Here’s what my friends get for their birthdays

By Jennifer Winnett Denniston
October 2, 2018

I remember two things about the first day of junior high as clearly as if they happened yesterday. First, the outfit I worked so hard to assemble: pink top, Keds and light blue acid-washed jeans. As I walked through the door with my new backpack and pocket folders that day (because I was clearly too mature for a Trapper Keeper, Mom!), I had no idea that one of the most memorable experiences of my life was going to happen that day: I was about to start my period. And not only did I have no idea it was going to happen, I had no idea it was going to leave a mark on my life and shape my future.

You see, in the haze of first-day jitters and new schedules, I got so wrapped up in what I was doing that I never went to the bathroom that day. So, I didn’t realize that I spent the whole day with a growing stain on the back of my precious acid-washed jeans.

I’ll let you imagine the emotional fallout that occurred when I got home from school, went to the bathroom and discovered (after the fact) my own humiliation. Suffice it to say, though, that my friends and I tied up many phone lines rehashing this catastrophic event. We unanimously agreed that I should never show my face in junior high again.

I think about that experience a lot these days as I talk to Plan International USA’s sponsors about the importance of menstrual health management in our work. Three decades later I can still remember the awful feeling of not fitting in, when my education took an immediate backseat to the biological processes of my body. It felt like I couldn’t control my own destiny anymore.

I imagine that’s how girls around the world feel every day when they don’t have access to bathrooms and menstrual products they need to properly manage their periods. In my case, though, I did return to school, and a month later, I was prepared with everything I needed to keep me in school and focused on learning.

The girls Plan serves today don’t have that luxury. That’s why my favorite way to support Plan is through The WHOLE Girl Fund. This Fund helps break down barriers for girls and addresses their needs, including providing girls with access to the water and menstrual products they need to be healthy and successful. In fact, I make gifts like this in honor of all of the strong women in my life on their birthdays each year. When we draw on the experiences that unite us with other women, we can come together and make real change in the world.

Is there a woman in your life who deserves a little something special? Give a gift to The WHOLE Girl Fund in her honor!