Making Local Connections to Global Issues
One powerful way to inspire Americans to support the critical work of the United Nations is by connecting local communities with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Iowa UNA has done just that through their EmpowerHer campaign, which connects the lack of access to feminine hygiene products worldwide to issues being faced by girls and women at home in Iowa. The campaign was started in fall 2017 and promotes the wellbeing of women and girls, a priority encompassed in several of the SDGs.
Through the campaign, Iowa UNA has partnered with the local Days for Girls affiliate to provide reusable pads to women and girls worldwide. The obstacle—how do you inspire local individuals unfamiliar with the UN to support a global campaign? How do you make the UN accessible to Iowans? As it turns out, the connection was much closer than they first thought. As Iowa UNA’s Executive Director Andrea Cohen was searching to connect EmpowerHer and Iowan communities, she soon discovered that some young girls in Iowa City do not have sufficient access to feminine hygiene products due to the problems of cost and access, resulting in girls missing school. It was then that the focus of the campaign expanded from providing hygiene products globally to also improving circumstances locally.
Iowa UNA is taking on local legislation to improve the health of women and girls across Iowa. At the state level, they’re urging elected leaders to support a proposal to remove the luxury tax for feminine hygiene products. In Washington, they are lobbying for the Senate’s “Dignity Act” that would improve access to mensural hygiene products for federal prisoners. They’re also supporting the “Menstrual Equity Act,” which would qualify menstrual products as a medical expense eligible for reimbursement from a health flexible spending arrangement.
Iowa UNA’s EmpowerHer campaign supports women and girls globally and helps address the local access and cost issues that prevent many Iowans from accessing necessary disposable feminine hygiene products. Importantly, the campaign also provides a platform to introduce Iowans to the UN’s work and mission.
Iowa UNA has brought home the impact of the purpose of SDGs and the role they play in improving the lives of everyone, everywhere. As Andrea said, “The issues over there are issues that you share.”