Explainer: What’s a dignity kit?

UNICEF/Prashanth Vishwanatha | A teacher in India leads an awareness class about menstrual and general hygiene to her students. (file)

Every month, nearly two billion women and girls menstruate, but during times of war and climate disasters, from the conflict in Gaza to the devastation caused by Cyclone Remal in Asia, UN humanitarian teams rush to serve affected communities, providing critical aid, which includes dignity kits.

What exactly is a dignity kit? On the heels of Menstrual Hygiene Day, marked annually on 28 May, here are five fast facts:

1. What’s a dignity kit?

Responding to emergencies, UN agencies act fast to reach people in need, including the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN sexual and reproductive health agency, UNFPA. Part of what these and other aid organizations do to help is to distribute basic supplies to maintain the health and dignity of women and girls. Many of these are included inside containers called dignity kits.

A dignity kit comprises basic items that women and girls need to protect themselves and maintain hygiene, respect and dignity in the face of disasters, war and other crises.

These items are all housed inside a backpack or easy-to-carry bucket.

Girls affected by the ongoing conflict in Gaza receive a care and protection package distributed by UNICEF.

© UNICEF/Eyad El Baba | Girls affected by the ongoing conflict in Gaza receive a care and protection package distributed by UNICEF.

2. What’s inside?

UNFPA’s dignity kits vary across communities. The basic kit contains 10 key essential items.

Kits can also be customised with 39 different items. In some settings, for example, they may include a headscarf.

Generally, they contain menstrual pads, bath soap, multiple pairs of underwear, detergent powder, sanitary napkins, a flashlight, toothpaste, a toothbrush and a comb.

Each of these items is catered to the specific needs of women and girls in communities around the world.

Contents of a UNFPA dignity kit.

© UNFPA | Contents of a UNFPA dignity kit.

3. Why is menstruation support critical in times of crises?

All women and girls who are menstruating need basic supplies. But, in times of crisis, these needs often fall to the wayside.

So, UN emergency aid operations have jumped in to provide them with the basic essentials. That includes in warzones, disaster-affected communities and in refugee camps. In these kinds of crisis situations, access to basic goods and services is affected, so the UN tries to meet those needs.

Providing period support can boost health, reduce gender-based violence and more. Read UNFPA’s explainer on five key reasons why here.

Learn more about how the UN agency helps women and girls in war-torn Gaza in the video below:

4. How do you get a dignity kit?

UNFPA and UNICEF keep prepositioned stocks of dignity kits in their humanitarian warehouses.

For instance, UNFPA supplies can be delivered anywhere in the world within 48 hours.

UNICEF, which maintains the world’s largest humanitarian goods warehouse located in Denmark, has kits on hand, ready for distribution to crisis-affected areas.

The UN never charges beneficiaries for humanitarian aid. So, the dignity kits along with other emergency assistance are free.

Watch how UNFPA reached out to women and girls affected by the 2023 deadly earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria below:

5. Ending ‘period poverty’

Key to UN efforts aimed at addressing the needs of menstruating women and girls is raising awareness while stemming what is called “period poverty”.

UN Women defines period poverty as the “inability to afford and access menstrual products, sanitation and hygiene facilities and education and awareness to manage menstrual health”. It is caused by stigma, high costs of menstrual products and lack of water and sanitation facilities.

Ending the stigma of menstruation is part of UN efforts to raise awareness in communities around the world, from The Gambia to Nepal.

Check out this explainer video from UNFPA Nepal, with English subtitles, about dignity kits below:

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