This week in the Black Girl Magic series we will hear from Ileri Jaiyeoba, Executive Director of Code Red! Ileri is a freshman at New York University. She believes that all girls and women should have access to menstrual products. Ileri wants youth to know that it does not matter where you come from or what you are lacking, but to acknowledge the advantages and privileges you have and use it to follow your passion of making an impact in the world. Read on to learn more about how Ileri is changing the world one package at a time.
Name: Ileri Jaiyeoba
What is Code Red mission?
The mission of Code Red is to end the silence surrounding menstrual health and sanitation through a revolutionary movement dedicated to supporting and empowering women by providing them with sanitary resources and encouraging them to live fearlessly. Sanitary products play a crucial role around important issues such as hygiene, health, education, protection and security of young women and girls in a state of emergency. In order to aid in this issue, we try to make sure these women have access to the products. Code Red is an organization that serves to provide personal care and feminine products to homeless women while promoting awareness surrounding menstrual hygiene as well as global dangers that affect women at large. The packages not only raise consciousness about homelessness but also come with a card that includes information about the dangers of human trafficking.
Code Red packages
What inspired you to create Code Red?
As a young woman, I couldn't imagine what it would be like if I had no access to menstrual products during my period cycle. I also couldn't imagine being in an emergency setting and not having menstrual products especially when I watched the news and saw women undergoing all the chaotic natural disasters occurring worldwide. So I made it my mission to provide menstrual products to women in need in emergency settings including homeless women and girls nationwide and abroad.
What advice would you give to youth wanting to start their own non-profit organization?
My advice to anyone who is young and wants to make an impact in the world is 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.
How did you deal with disappointments that came your way, while creating this amazing organization?
Disappointments really started when I first started and pitched my idea. People felt very uncomfortable with periods because of how taboo it was and still is. Not many people believed that at age 15 I could start an organization and they also thought the subject was way too taboo. Many people though realized the importance of what I was doing and supported me. Starting out was hard because one of our biggest disappointments was not getting enough volunteers or funds and donations for us to distribute to shelters and centers. Now that more and more people are beginning to realize the importance of menstrual hygiene, the less taboo periods are becoming and the more support we begin to receive.
Ileri and her friends
Juggling all my courses in school and Code Red became very difficult when I first started it. But, because I was so passionate about what I was doing, I pressed on and I think that Code Red ultimately encourages me to pursue my education more than anything. I do not feel burdened whatsoever with my responsibilities towards Code Red.
Where do you see Code Red in 10 years?
In the future I see Code Red expanding and reaching women internationally in more sustainable ways. As an organization, I want to see us working to end not just menstrual taboos but all harmful practices such as FGM, femicide, and the forced sterilization of disabled girls. I also picture our packages to have more information for women, because right now we have a hotline in each package for women who may find themselves stuck in sex trafficking. Having more facts, information, and hotlines in the packages will really be useful!
How can young people help with your organization?
Anyone can stay involved by donating, volunteering, or starting a branch in their community. Anyone can start a branch in their community by signing up for the ambassador program on the Code Red website. Becoming an Ambassador means that you can collect and distribute to shelters in your community! Anyone can also volunteer by signing up for one of our sanitary drives; the events are always put up on facebook and other social media accounts which can be followed @coderedco!
What did you learn from the Social Good Summit?
I was so happy to be a Social Good UNA blogger this past September. I think that one of the most important things I learned was the importance of basic needs for refugees. This encouraged me to pursue distribution at refugee centers in America through Code Red. The Social Good summit also allowed for me to be placed in a great atmosphere with incredibly passionate people, which I enjoyed.
What advice would you give about networking?
I’m so glad that we live in a generation that is into social media because social media makes it easier to connect with people and also stay in touch to keep the networks you make alive. Even so, its still better to meet people face to face, and this could happen when you take up different opportunities to attend events and conferences. Introducing yourself in environments where you are surrounded by incredible people who share your same passion is a great way to start off!
What does Black Girl Magic mean to you?
Black girl magic reminds me of where I come from and who I am. It reminds me of the magic passed down from my previous ancestors. Women who fought for their rights and survived in a world that not only looked down on them because of their color but for their gender too. The magic is inherited imbedded in me. It encourages me every day to keep going higher and as I go higher, to share some of the magic with other women so they can go higher too!