Paterno Fellow advocates for sustainable, accessible menstrual health products

As the vice president of advocacy for Days for Girls at Penn State, Emma Cihanowyz is tackling the issue of period poverty

Days for Girls creates reusable menstrual health kits, organizes fundraisers and holds educational awareness programs. Credit: Kiarat VidalAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Emma Cihanowyz likes to have her “eggs in multiple baskets but go all in.” A simple look at her resume shows how apparent this is.

Cihanowyz is a junior double majoring in international politics and French and triple minoring in Spanish, women’s studies, and global and international studies. She spends most of her time outside the classroom focused on being the vice president of advocacy for Days for Girls at Penn State, an organization that works to end period poverty — the lack of access to menstrual products and essentials needed for period care — around the world.

Cihanowyz, a Montoursville, Pennsylvania, native, is also a Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Scholar.

“Being a Paterno Fellow and taking honors classes is definitely engaging and challenging,” Cihanowyz said. “I find it really interesting to dive deeper into my courses. The honors classes are also often smaller, so they're more discussion based. I would say the classes definitely have enriched my education immensely.

“The College of the Liberal Arts has also granted me a lot of unique opportunities. Working with career coaches within the Liberal Arts Career Enrichment Network and academic advisers has been amazing. All the resources that the College of the Liberal Arts has are really great and I have found to be great tools as a student.”

Since her first semester of college, Cihanowyz has been an active member of Days for Girls at Penn State, which is a chapter of the larger international nonprofit Days for Girls International. The chapter was recognized as the student organization of the fall 2020 semester at Penn State, an award presented by the Office of Student Activities.

The organization creates reusable menstrual health kits, organizes fundraisers and holds educational awareness programs. The chapter at Penn State is set up in a way that supports those three initiatives.

Cihanowyz oversees the advocacy team within Days for Girls at Penn State.

“What our advocacy team looks like, is just what the name is, really advocating in our local community and making sure that the community's needs are met and that menstrual products are accessible for everyone all across campus and State College,” Cihanowyz said. 

Cihanowyz explained that in the first year of the club’s creation, the members focused on making the bags for the menstrual kits and had plans to move to creating liners, but due to the pandemic, the members could no longer sew in person.

“We’re currently back to teaching everyone how to sew the bags, but hopefully, we’ll move to liners soon,” Cihanowyz explained. “We contribute our bags to a larger team who does a complete kit out in Philadelphia, and they’re really great. They do the rest of the kit and disseminate it wherever they need to go.”

The kits last for five years and contain reusable liners, panty shields and personal care products.

Cihanowyz worked on the bag component of the Days for Girls menstrual kit alongside Shaka Ramanathan in the fall of 2019. Credit: ProvidedAll Rights Reserved.

Days for Girls at Penn State is preparing to launch its brand-new initiative, Flow2Go, something Cihanowyz explained would have a profound and positive impact on Penn State students by providing greater access to products.

"What that's going to look like is basically putting together kits to then put in each academic college across Penn State so there will be stations all across campus where you can access free products,” Cihanowyz said.

Cihanowyz said she appreciates knowing the group is “fulfilling a need and giving opportunity for someone to go to classes and not have to worry about their period product, knowing that this free option is here, and people can access it.”

Cihanowyz is also involved in Penn State Democrats serving as their political affairs chair and completes research in the Department of Political Science.

She explained that her involvement in Days for Girls has allowed her to find her passion of working in menstrual equity after college.

“It spurred into a whole passion I have for equity and working for a more inclusive world,” Cihanowyz said. “I also want to go to law school too, so it’s kind of inspired me to look at how I can make the community more equitable and how I can turn that passion into a career.”

To learn more about Cihanowyz and other Liberal Arts Change Makers, visit

Last Updated October 16, 2021