Code Red

By: Ileri Jaiyeoba

Poverty , Caretaker

It's a taboo subject to begin with, but for homeless and low-income women, menstruation not only impacts feminine health and hygiene, it also causes an undue financial burden. On average, women spend $70-dollars a month to properly manage their periods -- to much for impoverished women to afford.

While women make up a third of the country's homeless shelter population, most shelters don't get donations of sanitary products -- and government programs, like food stamps, don't cover the purchase costs of feminine care -- which is why women have been known to trade food stamps for tampons

How are 45 U.S. states justified in requiring women to pay an added fee for tampons and other feminine hygiene products

According to a United Nations report entitled, Criminalization of Homelessness in the United States of America, homeless women are also degraded by not having access to adequate facilitities during their menstrual cycles. Futher, lack of sanitation is closely related to escalated incidents of rapes, sex trafficking, and girls dropping out of school.

To address these needs, I started an organization called Code Red, which believes that hygienic comfort emboldens a woman and her self-confidence, encouraging her to be the best she can be no matter her environment and socio-economic status. 

Empowerment through health is important for a woman to have confidence and take on the day -- esepcially if you're already under the stigma of being homeless. 

Code Red is concerned for the wellbeing of women who do not have access to hygienic resources such as menstrual commodities and toilets. When a menstruating woman does not have access to the proper sanitation supplies, she may resort to items like socks or rags, to absorb the flow. Prolongued exposure to soiled items can lead to a vaginal infection and make a woman more vulnerable to the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, which can lead to cervical cancer. 

Further, the lack of sanitation is closely related to incidents of rapes, "survival sex," high rates of sex trafficking and high rates in the drop of education among girls. For these reasons, Code Red seeks to address the empowerment of women through a one-for-one sharing about menstrual hygiene care. We believe that when a woman doesn't feel clean and confident, it's harder for them to want to improve their lives. 

  • I believe that all women are of worth and should be empowered which is why after years of volunteering with homeless women I decided to start Code Red at age 14. My passion for creative ways to serve others along with my driving force to help others help themselves gives me certainty that Code Red is part of my purpose.


Keep Her Clean. Period.

Feb. 16, 2016

Code Red stands out because it is a collective of uplifting empowerment and menstrual hygiene, through community. My organization contains a website to boost a one-for-one, an empowering message campaign, and a care package. We also connect diverse groups of women with each other to empower, and help. 

By making a website, that encourages Code Red's goals and keeps record of accomplishments Code Red reveals to people that they are making a difference in the community and others’ lives! Also what makes Code Red different is that it is a movement, it is not just only limited to one specific group, It is partnered with different non-profits and projects to make a bigger impact.

Though the focus is homeless women inside the United States Code Red is not confined to one specific location and will soon in the near future to reach beyond the United States.

Advice for my peers

Feb. 15, 2016

What the Code Red team has learned throughout our journey is patience, because not everything may go as planned. The team struggled keeping a balanced budget at first and we especially struggled with our mission statement. We wanted our mission to be something easy to visualize and clear to others. As our goals for Code Red expanded, we shifted from the dream a bit. When we got back on track with our vision we created our mission statement and listed our goals to create:

Code Red Co. ends the silence surrounding menstrual health and sanitation through a revolutionary movement dedicated to supporting and empowering women by providing them with sanitary resources.”

Ultimately, we learned to face hardships with confidence and optimism.

I advise anyone who is young and wants to impact the world is that people are going to think little of your ideas at first because they think it may be too unrealistic, if you maintain a clear vision and put your vision to action you can do anything. Always remember that it doesn't matter where you're coming from or what you are lacking, acknowledge the advantages and privileges you have and use it to follow your passion of making an impact.

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