It is hard to believe that only five years ago, Katherine Kleinpeter Raymond’s Letter from the President announced a new Junior League of New Orleans (JLNO) initiative – Diaper Bank. Her poignant letter insinuated the new program may have an effect as profound as our 1974 preservation initiative, which led to the Preservation Resource Center. Five years later, we have realized the impact.
But what’s next?
Lately the news has been highlighting period poverty. Much like diapers, women cannot use public benefits such as food stamps to buy period supplies; nor are these items covered by flexible and health spending accounts, health insurance or Medicaid. You can read more about recent efforts being made to change this by the Louisiana Legislature on page 23. Additionally, as we are all aware, these items are very expensive. The effects of poor menstrual hygiene include risks of reproductive and urinary tract infections, absences from school (which can lead to failing and/or dropping out, causing further lifelong challenges), anxiety and depression. This need causes a great burden to homeless women, whose wardrobes are limited and who must resort to extreme measures during their period, including using plastic bags, newspapers or dried leaves as sanitary napkins — some even exchanging prostitution for period supplies.
I’m proud to announce we will begin expanding our impact by collecting period supplies this year. We are currently amassing supplies and distributing them to two entities for direct service. Our membership saw a need in the community, and we are proud to be on the forefront of this initiative, helping enhance the wellbeing of women in the Greater New Orleans area by ensuring they have the period supplies they need. I ask that you please consider donating pads, tampons and reusable menstrual cups by dropping them off at JLNO Headquarters for this new program.
While looking at what we can do for our community, I want to ensure we are looking to grow internally as well. Part of what makes New Orleans special is our diversity — we’ve been melding cultures since the city’s inception. But is our League diverse? Are we inclusive of everyone? Do we really represent the citizens of the Greater New Orleans area? (See page 10 for a deeper dive into these questions.)
As we approach this League year, we will focus not only on welcoming diversity to our membership — including race, ethnicity, religion, culture, ability status, sexual orientation, gender expression, educational level, work status and age — but also in becoming fully inclusive. To fully represent our region, we must be more than diverse; instead, we must ensure all voices are represented and heard. Diversity and inclusion are how the Junior League of New Orleans will thrive for another 95 years to come.
As always, thank you for continuing to support the League and our mission of advancing the wellbeing of women. Each of you truly are women leading for a greater New Orleans.
Christine M Vinson