Dana Marlowe turned a moment into a movement. What began with the question, “What can I do with my old bras?” led to the creation of I Support the Girls, a national non-profit organization that provides a source of dignity, self-esteem, empowerment, and support to marginalized women via the donation of bras and menstrual hygiene products. As a human rights advocate in the intersections of feminism, menstrual equality, health, and dignity, Dana works tirelessly to better the lives of the most invisible populations.
Dana Marlowe turned a moment into a movement. What began with the question, “What can I do with my old bras?” led to the creation of I Support the Girls, a national non-profit organization that provides a source of dignity, self-esteem, empowerment, and support to marginalized women via the donation of bras and menstrual hygiene products.
are often overlooked by mainstream society. Dana can’t fix the larger societal issues that create insecurity, like homelessness and living paycheck-to-paycheck, but she can combat feelings of
worthlessness by encouraging an accommodated period and properly fitting bra. In her tenure as the Executive Director and Founder at I Support the Girls, Dana has worked behind
the scenes and beyond borders, not only facilitating donations but also visiting countless shelters to connect with women experiencing homelessness, hearing their stories, and using these
experiences to become a stronger advocate.
breast cancer survivors. Dana has spearheaded the initiative to create the I Support the Girls Affiliate Network throughout the United States and globally.
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TOPICS DISCUSSED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Dana’s inspiration for starting I Support the Girls.
- The lightbulb moment when Dana decided what to do with the bras that no longer fit her.
- How the pandemic has impacted I Support the Girls and the women they serve.
- Women and families represent the fastest growing groups of the homeless population in the United States. Approximately 34% of the homeless population are families with children.
- One of the major factors of homelessness among American women is domestic violence.
- Turning a side project into a movement.
- How Dana mobilized into a way that supported the vision of the project.
- The hardest part of the rollout of I Support the Girls.
- How Dana balances running the non-profit and being a CEO of another compan.
- How Dana handles the visibility she’s received as the voice for the women she’s advocating for.
- Bringing light to invisible inequities that women deal with on a day to day basis.
- Women lead by utilizing their networks.
(6:35) I had one of those lightbulb moments half-naked in a dressing room in my local mall. And I turned to her and I said, “what could I do with my perfectly good, but no longer fitting bras.” And she looked at me and she’s said, “homeless women need bras.” And those four words have basically changed the course of my life.
(9:32) I was so grateful to be able to rally together with so many people. Quickly within 48 hours, I realized it was so much bigger than me. I was just like one tiny little cog in the overall project.
(10:00) While I was on the phone with this particular shelter, I said “I don’t know what I don’t know. So what else do you all need?” and he said, “well, if you’re willing to bring the bras, which we really need, would you consider bringing some Oxy pads and tampons?”. And Kim, that was the first time in my life I had thought about what it must be like to be a woman experiencing month after month for five or six days on end and dealing with whether it’s cramps or excessive bleeding or any of the other symptoms that go along with the menstrual cycle and what that has to be like to have to choose between buying a box of tampons for yourself, for that July or feeding yourself a hot meal or your child a hot meal for that night. That’s a really awful decision to have to make.
(26:50) The other thing is media started reaching out and the media was really generous and helped us elevate the needs and talk about why homeless women in particular are often forgotten. Why poverty and menstrual equity is a thing and why girls in every state are missing school every single month because they don’t have access to maxi pads when they have their period. Why correctional facilities, jails, and prisons are withholding maxi pads and tampons from their inmates. These are human rights needs. And so that afforded us to have these conversations that I feel are our society was ready to really explode. And that’s where places like Laura and Jennifer at Period Equity really also just exploded on the scene because there are so many different conversations here that had to happen.
(29:27) The tampons and pads were almost up to the ceiling and bras were like coming off the bed, you couldn’t even see there was a bed. So my whole family got involved and friends got involved who had all of these different skill sets from business strategy to nonprofit management, nonprofit development, fundraising, marketing, public relations, and organization development. And I think that’s what it comes down to is I was really lucky and I’m very fortunate, privileged to have an incredible group of friends in my social network and people that were willing to just say, I’m here. How can I help?
(34:30) Overall I think women’s networks are different. Women network differently. Women leaders network differently. And I think that can be both style and in function. And because of that, I think who they’re bringing to the table, who are as contributors who are forming that thought leadership collective as a team is different than how men lead.
About ISTG Our Mission: Through an international network of Affiliates, I Support the Girls collects and distributes essential items, including bras, underwear, and menstrual hygiene products, allowing women and folx experiencing homelessness, impoverishment, or distress to stand tall with dignity. A woman shouldn’t have to choose between feeding herself and her personal health.
Help the girls out. Donate Today. Since 2010, we’ve donated bras to support women in need. The past 5 years, we’ve partnered with I SUPPORT THE GIRLS to help women experiencing homelessness, impoverishment, or distress with essential items like bras to take care of their self esteem and personal health.
Period Equity is the team of lawyers who created the playbook for using the tools of law and policy to achieve menstrual equity – and to ensure that menstruation never poses a barrier to civic engagement and democratic participation. And now we are moving on to new adventures – for menstrual (and menopause!)