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Tampa Bay teen takes action to fight period poverty

The 15-year-old Hillsborough County student was shocked to find out one in five girls struggle to afford the basic necessities of menstrual hygiene products.

TAMPA, Fla. — Many people have faced serious struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some have lost jobs or taken pay cuts and that's made it harder for many to get essential items like food and medicine.  

But, there's something many haven't thought of: feminine hygiene products.  

A recent survey shows since the pandemic began, one in three women have struggled to buy these basic items. A Tampa Bay area teen is working to change this. 

It all started with a summer leadership program, where 15-year-old Aanya Patel found out that menstrual hygiene was a huge problem women face around the world.  Once she started doing some research, she realized the problem was affecting girls and women in her own community. 

"I was shocked to find out that even in a developed country like America, where you think there's access to all of these products, one in five girls struggle to afford basic necessities of menstrual hygiene products," Patel said. 

So, Patel decided to take action right here in Hillsborough County.  

"I have a goal to collect and distribute 50,000 pads to all Title One middle and high school girls," Patel said. 

In just a matter of months, she collected enough pads to start sending them out to schools. 

"Many of these girls don't have access to these products and they are missing out on school and this can really drag them behind. So, it just feels really good to know that I'm helping these girls."

RELATED: Study: pandemic-led recession hits women harder than men

Patel's mom, Rina, wasn't surprised she took on such a huge project. 

"I was extremely proud of her for initiating something that's above and beyond, bigger than herself. And she's accomplished so much in such a short period of time."

Patel had to present the idea to the school board before getting the green light to collect donations.  So far she's gotten wonderful feedback from the principals and nurses at the schools telling her how much they needed these products. 

Patel started a GoFundMe with a goal of $4,000 to be able to supply the schools. She just reached her goal this week and wants to continue raising money so she can help more women. 

Donations can be made online.

RELATED: Scotland to make period products freely available to all

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