Growing up as one of six children, Karli Piennette remembers rummaging through her change purse to collect enough coins to be able to buy feminine pads.
Fast forward to an adult, newly married with a spouse in medical school, Piennette vividly remembers having to choose sometimes between buying bread to eat or the feminine products she desperately needed.
"It's a choice no woman should have to make. And especially young girls - if you have to skip dinner and go to school hungry, just so you can make sure you are not embarrassed in front of your classmates; what kind of option is that?" Piennette said.
And Piennette is not alone.
Twin sisters Breanna and Brooke Bennett are 14-year-old high school freshmen at Saint James School in Montgomery.
And they have already started a non-profit to try and help solve this exact problem.
"We started Women In Training because our mom was a teacher at an all-girls school in Miami, Florida," said Breanna Bennett. "We saw students asking my mom for feminine products, which seemed odd to us."
The girls said they knew feminine products were also essential, and they were shocked to find out there was no plan in place to get pads or tampons to girls and women.
"This is not something that is a luxury or even a want - it is a need," Breanna Bennett said.
"The community has gotten behind us and donated feminine products," Brooke Bennett said. "So far, we have collected and passed out about 5,000 kits to needy girls and women. The kits are full of hygiene products.”
The girls want to help women but also want to educate young men.
"And here is another problem - in many cases, who is growing up to become lawmakers and decision-makers in Alabama? Men," said Breanna Bennett. "In schools, the boys and girls are separated into different rooms for the 'birds &amp;amp;amp;amp; bees’ or puberty talk. So, through no fault of their own, boys are uneducated about the issues" young women face.
"So, we knew if we wanted to see change, we would have to spearhead it ourselves, as young women for future generations."
In Birmingham, menstrual equity is also a constant concern and has been for the past four years for Lindsay Gray, who is Executive Director of Bundles of Hope Diaper Bank.
"I was a labor and delivery nurse at St. Vincents for ten years before leading the diaper bank," Gray said. "I saw the need every day as a nurse, and I see it every day at the diaper bank. And it's almost like women are embarrassed to ask for what they need. They have less of an issue asking for diapers or formula for their newborns, but when it comes to their well-being ... we desperately have to normalize the need!"
Right now, Bundles of Hope Diaper Bank partners with The Period Movement (period.org) and The Alliance For Period Supplies (allianceforperiodsupplies.org)
Alabama State Rep. Rolanda Hollis heard of Breanna and Brooke's mission, she jumped on board immediately.
She introduced HB50, a bill requiring schools, K-12, to provide feminine hygiene products in women's restrooms of certain schools, at no cost to students.
But she said she did not want to take it to the Senate because she wanted money in the bill.
"Right now, I am requesting $200,000, so we can get (feminine products) into the schools of Alabama," Hollis said. "We can always increase it, but the goal is to now take it to Senate in 2022 with some money attached to it."
In 2022, Hollis has already held two events asking the community to donate feminine products, which are then distributed to Center Point, Birmingham, and Irondale schools.
If you would like to drop off any feminine products, the third and final event is Saturday.
Preventing Period Poverty
Date: Saturday, Feb 12th
Time: 10 am - 2 pm
Location: Guiding Light Church
1800 John Rogers Dr.
Birmingham, AL 35210
As for Breanna and Brooke - they hope within the next five years to expand Women In Training internationally. Breanna wants to be an OBGYN, and Brooke wants to be a lawyer - degrees they hope can help advance their non-profit. If you would like to learn how to help their mission, visit www.womenintraining.org.
And in the meantime, the twins have one message for other young women reading this article.
"Stand up for issues that affect you. We may be kids, but we have the power to create change and improve our community." Brooke Bennett said.
As for Lindsay at Bundles of Hope Diaper Bank, she says you also drop donations off at their office, or you can sponsor a woman to get products for only $10 a month. Their location is: 1430 Reverend Abraham Woods Jr Boulevard, Birmingham, AL 35203 or you can call them at (205) 607-2112
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email news@1819News.com.
This story has been edited from the original version.