Krithika Shamanna ’18 Introduces LaunchPad Initiative


Mae Bruce , A&E Editor

Feminine hygiene is usually a topic that is discussed in whispers, and leaves many girls feeling like they have no place to go in times of need. However, LaunchPad is a student led initiative that Krithika Shamanna ‘18 started to help girls during their menstruation cycle. Their main goal is to empower girls at Westwood and in the broader Austin community and provide products for those who may not usually have some. She believes that feminine hygiene shouldn’t be such a stigma and should be a normal topic that any girl can discuss. If a girl doesn’t have a hygiene product, they need to have a safe place where they can ask for help without feeling awkward about it.

“I’ve been in many situations where I’ve forgotten a tampon or just run out- and many girls who’ve been in that same situation can probably relate,” Shamanna said. “It can be super uncomfortable and awkward! But it shouldn’t be – everyone should have access to feminine hygiene products when they need them without feeling embarrassed.”

Shamanna and her friends have set up donation baskets at the bathrooms around the school, where anyone can donate boxes of unopened pads or tampons for girls who may need one quick. Shamanna wants to break down the barrier of inequality, and she believes that by creating LaunchPad, it’s a step in the right direction. Many girls across the country go without hygiene products while menstruating, which can make them feel alone and isolated, with nowhere to go for help.

“People often take access to feminine hygiene products for granted, but unfortunately that isn’t a luxury for a lot of girls at Westwood,” Shamanna said. “Raising awareness and solving this problem would help girls feel more confident and safe when attending school.”

But not everything has been easy for Shamanna. LaunchPad was only started a few weeks ago, and they still need as many donations as possible. They need everyone to pitch in a little so every girl at Westwood can feel like they are comfortable at school while menstruating. Girls aren’t the only ones to benefit either, as LaunchPad provides a place of education for guys as well, where they can learn about what menstruation is really like and how the ideas of it being gross or a non-touchable topic can be stopped.

“We are hoping to help everyone at Westwood. In a safer, comfortable environment, filled with productive conversations, everyone benefits,” Shamanna said.

Worldwide, menstruation is still a losing battle. A single menstrual pad costs $4 USD in Afghanistan. And in Kenya, 65 percent of women and girls can’t afford sanitary pads.This leaves so many girls struggling with how to deal with their period because they cannot afford to buy a hygiene product. But more importantly, in America, tampons and sanitary pads often top the list of what women’s shelters lack most, because they are upwards of $18–$25 per package. These products are needed for women to get through daily life, and LaunchPad wants to help the girls at Westwood who can’t afford to buy these expensive products every month.

“Students often skip school if they aren’t able to get a tampon or pad, and others are simply too embarrassed to ask for one, including me sometimes,” Shamanna said, “but I believe that free pads [and] tampons should be a human right.”

This is not Shamanna’s first time working with nonprofit organizations. She has also been working with a nonprofit that encourages social entrepreneurship, AMP 360, for the last year. Her experience with AMP 360 allowed her to plan out and start up LaunchPad. Even though it sounds as simple as donating a box of pads to help other girls, it promotes much more than that. It brings awareness and conversation to the topic while also helping girls during their cycles. Shamanna may seem ambitious, but LaunchPad already has people talking about issues important to all girls.

“I hope to accomplish two main things, one, to ensure every girl at Westwood has equal access to feminine hygiene products when they need them, and two, to provide a safe and intersectional space for students to engage in productive discourse regarding sexual [and] reproductive health, gender issues and the cost of inequality,” Shamanna said.

Shamanna has not talked about her future plans for LaunchPad, but the organization is helping girls no matter what. And all over the U.S., different organizations are helping women who live in poverty and can’t afford hygiene products, or even just helping provide these products in bathrooms. Shamanna believes that feminine hygiene products should be accessible for all girls, no matter what. And with things like the ‘Tampon Tax,’ the belief that hygiene products are just a luxury and not necessity, can make it so hard for any girls to find the help they need. Organizations like LaunchPad always need more help and donations.

“We haven’t been getting enough donations. For this program to work and for us to achieve our goal, we need everyone’s help,” Shamanna said.

When you see one of those donations boxes outside of the bathrooms around the school, think of the girls in need and how much LaunchPad has already done. Shamanna hopes this brings more conversation to the daily problems that every girl faces, especially the ones who feel outcast because of their periods. Help donate to LaunchPad, and bring hope to a girl who needs help. Shamanna has already done so much, and everyone needs to pitch in before the problem can be solved. LaunchPad is just the first step, and in the future, Shamanna hopes that all girls can have access to any hygiene products they need for free. Shamanna thinks that this is a way to start the ball rolling on this issue, and people will begin to think of feminine hygiene as a right and inspire others to do work in their own communities. LaunchPad may only be the beginning, but it is part of a bigger issue that Shamanna hopes to help.

“Tampons and pads are a human right,” Shamanna said, “Donate boxes of tampons and pads, contribute to the gofundme and spread the word.”