Let’s Talk About It


From the Desk of
This is the power of social and behavior change interventions – when we all talk about taboos, they will not be taboo anymore!

Dear Maverick Collective Community,

With pleasure, I would like to introduce you to our September ISSUE, Let’s Talk About It: Engaging Communities in Taboo Topics!

In this ISSUE, two Maverick projects are highlighted: a mental health project in the Dominican Republic and a menstrual health global advocacy project.

You will meet project teams, see how they interact with communities, including young girls and marginalized people, and show you how exciting and powerful social and behavior change is, especially talking about taboos. As you’ll learn, to influence new behaviors or change perspectives toward any problem, especially those considered to be taboo, we must create a safe environment where people can feel free to speak openly about difficult subjects.

As you will hear from the project team in the Dominican Republic, addressing mental health is a normal thing for everyone. However, because of stigma, nobody wants to admit that mental health is a “normal” health issue and thus, also needs care and treatment. When the project team created safe places for people to talk openly, using simple “tools” for health care providers to follow, then the power of talking helped break down stigma, change behaviors, and create a more streamlined system for addressing mental at all levels of the primary healthcare experience.

The same is true when it comes to talking about menstrual health.  Menstruation is a universal experience for half the world’s population, but in some cultures, girls are not allowed to talk about their period or menstrual health and hygiene.  It is powerful to see a group of girls engage in conversations about menstruation openly, instead of feeling like it is something shameful or only talked about behind closed doors.  experience.

The project’s focus on global advocacy is helping put menstrual health on the global agenda and identifying the importance of integrating menstrual health in sexual and reproductive health for greater impact.  This is the power of social and behavior change interventions – when we all talk about taboos, they will not be taboo anymore!

To continue the conversation, we need champions, like Cristina and Lindsay, to advocate for these often-underfunded health issues and bring them into the mainstream.

Join us and enjoy!

Socheat Chi
Excecutive Director, PSI Cambodia


Tune in to Episode 4 of Maverick Beat where, over the course of two segments, we spotlight The Power of Primary Care for Mental Health Services in the Dominican Republic and the Global Menstrual Health Advocacy. You can explore more in the project pages including Lindsay’s and Cristina’s “journals,” stories from Sara, photos, and more.

Integrating Mental Health Services into Primary Care Clinics in the Dominican Republic
I can only imagine what Sara [PSI’s archetypal consumer] in the Dominican Republic is facing; but I know that now, more than ever, she needs our help to make it through the anxiety and depression she may be feeling.


On March 17, 2020 the Dominican Republic began implementing social distancing measures to curb the spread of the virus. Although social interventions for mental health became more challenging than ever, SFH developed a plan to rise to the occasion.

The Mental Health Project began fielding more requests for mental healthcare through social media (specifically Facebook and Instagram), and also provided the same emotional support and counseling on WhatsApp. On all three platforms, these services were provided free of cost.


Lindsay Abrams

  • 1 in 3 suicides in the Dominican Republic occur among young people ages 15 to 29
  • ~1.5M people were reached by the project's mental health campaign
I am so grateful for the work that PSI and the (Dominican Republic's) Ministry of Health have done to make mental health a priority in the Dominic Republic. Lindsay Abrams

As of 2016, between 30-40% of the population of the Dominican Republic (DR) needed access to mental health services. Of the entire population, young people were most impacted by mental health disorders: 32% of all suicides in the country occur among people aged 15-19.
Working alongside the Ministry of Health, this project set out to destigmatize mental health and access to mental health services for both the general public and primary health providers, and to streamline mental health services at all levels of the primary health care experience, from non-medical health workers to doctors, and equip them with the necessary knowledge to appropriately diagnose, refer, and provide follow up services as needed.

A delicious meal…

My favorite meal that we had in Santo Domingo was at a restaurant on the Boca Chica beach with our project team. The fish was so fresh and the tostones were some of the best that we had while in the country. We had tostones every day on all of our visits, as they are so addicting and delicious! During this meal, we sat at a table overlooking the water, which was such a nice change from the hustle and bustle of the city. 

A memorable experience…

I really enjoyed visiting a school to see the mental health work assessments put into action and how each of the kids reacted to the instructions that they were asked to follow. I was very impressed by how each participant really did listen, engage in the conversation, and genuinely wanted to learn more about the activities that they were playing a part in. It was extremely interesting how our project team would determine which participants may be struggling with mental health issues from simple games that could be translated into meaningful next steps. 

An unexpected turn…

Toward the end of our project, COVID-19 hit the Dominican Republic and showed, more than ever before, how much mental health services were needed and how much the community appreciated and utilized them. We were able to see how successful our stigma reduction campaign had been and that it did actually make a difference, as more people than ever reached out for counseling. Luckily, our solutions and methods were adaptable to a virtual context, so COVID-19 may have changed the way our project team was working, but it did not change their ability to continue to provide services and support to those in the community who needed it most. 


Bringing Menstrual Health and Hygiene to the Global Health Agenda
Daniela didn’t understand what was happening to her body the first time she menstruated. Nobody had fully explained what would happen. She had only heard that her period was “dirty,” that on "those days, women act crazy" and that it was “like being sick.”


By Andrea Novella, Regional Manager, Social Media, PSI LAC, and Lorena Villeda, Regional Social Media Specialist, PSI LAC 

Daniela didn’t understand what was happening to her body the first time she menstruated. Nobody had fully explained what would happen. She had only heard that her period was “dirty,” that on ¨those days, women act crazy¨ and that it was “like being sick.”

She remembered what her mother had once told her— that with the onset of menstruation she must be careful as “boys could be dangerous”–but Daniela never really understood how her periods related to boys. She was curious but struggled to find a trustworthy source of information about her menstrual health and hygiene without being shamed or judged.

Daniela is not alone. Girls across Latin America face similar challenges. The stigma and lack of information around menstrual health prevents them from having a holistic understanding of their sexual and reproductive health and taking charge of their health, their bodies, and their lives.


  • ~500M people face limitation when it comes to managing their menstruation
I think it's amazing that a Maverick project can help put menstrual health in the agenda. Cristina Ljungberg

Ensuring good and safe menstrual health and hygiene (MHH) contributes to the overall health and well-being of menstruators around the world, and yet roughly 500 million people face limitations when it comes to managing their menstruation. These challenges are even more urgent for those who menstruate in low- and middle-income countries. From poverty reduction and stronger economies to healthier populations and better educational outcomes, the benefits of investing in MHH) are far-reaching.
The Global Menstrual Health Advocacy Project was designed to marshal our joint efforts to bring MHH into the global health agenda and effectively address the menstrual health needs of people who menstruate through a strategy combining cross-sectoral programming, research, and advocacy.

A memorable moment…

One of the most memorable moments on my first project visit to Nepal was participating in a three-day women’s festival called Teejj. The festival is observed for the health of husbands and children and the act of purification of one’s self. The celebration includes feasting, fasting, gifts, and offerings. The festival of Rishi Panchami, which takes place on the 3rd day of Teej is focused on the purity of women and the need to cleanse oneself of the sin of possibly having touched a man during menstruation during the previous year. Photo #43 was taken at Pashupatinath, the most sacred Hindu temple in Kathmandu during the festival where a mother and adult daughter shared the festival with us and insisted that we dance and celebrate with them.

My favorite meal…

Open momos, a small dumpling filled with meat or veggies, dipped in a sauce. The spicy ones made me cry. The Swedish team ate these often. Although, the best food experience was the street food breakfast tour arranged by Backstreet Academy. We walked the streets of Kathmandu for a few hours on an early weekday morning, tasting and trying out the dishes that many Nepalese enjoy for a typical breakfast: dal, crispy gwaramari and sel roti, and hot glasses of milky chiya.

An unforgettable experience…

I love documentaries! As it turns out, Kathmandu hosts the Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival (KIMFF). The team that runs it is incredible, showing a combination of local and international films. During my Maverick project, I was able to support and attend the festival for two years. I ended up funding a film called “Drawing the Tiger”, about girls’ education in Nepal, and bringing a director, Mike Day, to Kathmandu to teach a master class in cinematography. I truly miss the team at KIMFF.


Tackling Taboo Topics

From menstrual hygiene to mental health – working with and for women and girls is often shrouded in stigma and shame. How do we best engage communities in tackling these taboo topics?

Together with our experts, we will challenge our own perspectives on social and behavior change, taboo topics, risk-prone investment, and the role of philanthropy in development.

In this Master Class, we will learn:

  • Key elements of social behavior change work in complex cultures and settings.
  • Ways in which data science is used to develop social behavior change interventions.
  • The importance of human-centered approaches that are co-designed with communities most impacted by the problems we are trying to solve.



Senior Project Coordinator, Society for Family Health

Mirna Guillén is a clinical psychologist working at the Society for Family Health PSI Population Services International. Under the collaborative agreement with Maverick, Mirna was part of the team developing this mental health project in the Dominican Republic, where she coordinated all the logistics and methodology to be implemented in the country, as well as the fieldwork, leading to the development of the objectives of bringing primary care in mental health, in coordination with the Ministry of Public Health of the country and the National Health Service.



Department of Mental Health, Ministry of Health Dominican Republic

Martha Rodríguez is a mother and wife, with deep Christian values, and a medical doctor specializing in public health and health programs monitoring, with over 15 years of experience in the prevention and development of health programs. Since 2016, Martha has worked in mental health programs within the Ministry of Public Health in the Dominican Republic.

Martha is part of a dedicated team leading the development of national prevention policies such as the National Mental Health Plan, and the National Dementia Response Plan in the Dominican Republic, as well as the execution of the mhGAP program in primary health, among other initiatives.

Martha is currently working on a national suicide prevention plan; the Center for Mental Health Contact, Treatment and Prevention; “Help Lines”; strategies for caring for the caregivers; and the development of a plan for the national amplification of the programmatic network for mental health.



Department of Mental Health, Ministry of Health Dominican Republic

Dr. Suzana is a medical doctor with over 17 years of experience specializing in psychiatry. She was in charge of mhGAP training to equip first-level care providers with the tools necessary to be able to conduct mental health screenings of their patients during routine visits.

Dr. Suzana graduated from the Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo (INTEC, 2003), and earned her psychiatry degree from the Hospital Psiquiátrico Padre Billini (MISPAS)/ Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD, 2010). Her work and training span beyond the Domincan Republic having worked and participated in professional development programs in the US, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Spain.

Dr. Suzana has been at the helm of multiple community based projects in the Dominican Republic, including mhGAP and HERO-NY. She is a professor and researcher with the Iberoamerican Universtiy, coordinate the psychiatry residency at the Instituto Tecnólogico de Santo Domigo (INTEC) and is a coordinating physician withthe mental Health DEpartment of the Public Health Ministry.



Sr. Program Manager, Latin America and the Caribbean & Asia, PSI

Samantha began with PSI as an intern in 2013 with the Global Social Marketing team, and then as a Program Assistant and Associate Program Manager. Currently, she leads the Latin America and Asia portfolio for the Global Operations department, where she focuses on excellence in program management.

Samantha’s experience includes gender and gender-based violence, youth-friendly health services, and new business development, among other management priorities. She has over 10 years of experience working in the international development field, including experience as a community health specialist, HIV case manager, and research assistant.

Samantha holds a Bachelor of Science in Community Health Education and an MPH from The George Washington University.



Maverick Collective Member

Lindsay Abrams is a Next Gen Philanthropist and mental health advocate. Since 2016, Lindsay has served as the Executive Director of the Bruce C. Abrams Foundation. In addition to her role at the foundation, Lindsay is the Sales & Outreach Manager at The Little Market, a nonprofit fair-trade shop featuring ethically sourced, artisan-made products.

Lindsay serves on the Board of Directors of Indego Africa, and on the Junior Board of NEST. She is also a member of the Young Leadership Committee at The JED Foundation.

Lindsay graduated from Vanderbilt University with a double major in Human and Organizational Development and an interdisciplinary study in literature and leadership. Following graduation, Lindsay moved to New York City, where she worked in the fashion industry at Rent the Runway and Joie. In 2019 she earned her Master’s in Social Entrepreneurship. from University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. Lindsay is now back in NYC, enjoying Brooklyn with her fiance and petite goldendoodle, Harper.





Managing Director, PSI Europe

Odette Hekster joined PSI-Europe in 2012 and served in different roles before becoming Managing Director in July 2020.

With a Masters in Science of Public Administration (Netherlands), Odette has over eight years of leadership and management experience and over 20 years of experience in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, including working in East Africa with UN-Habitat’s Safer Cities Programme to address urban sexual violence against women, in the English- & Dutch- speaking Caribbean with UNFPA, as well as working for the Dutch NGOs Aidsfonds and Rutgers.



Menstrual Health Researcher and Activist

Maria Carmen is a Menstrual Health researcher and activist. After working in several international non-profit organizations focused on gender equity and reproductive health, she won a five-year grant to complete her PhD on menstrual health and social enterprises at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University.

Her research starts from the recognition that while menstrual health has been proven to affect women’s opportunities, health and inclusive participation in society, it is widely missing from existing work for gender equity.

On the side of her research, Maria Carmen is the Innovation Advisor at Madami and is regularly consulted across the Menstrual Health and Hygiene (MHH) space for her expertise in MHH related business innovation. When she is not busy writing and teaching, she curates her @periodswithmariacarmen Instagram page, where she translates evidence on the menstrual cycle into fun, shareable content.



Senior Advocacy Manager, PSI

Sandy Garçon manages a portfolio of advocacy initiatives primarily focused on menstrual health and self-care interventions for health. At PSI, Sandy led the creation of the Self-Care Trailblazer Group (SCTG), a global coalition dedicated to expanding the safe and effective practice of self-care, and serves as Secretariat Director. He also oversees strategic communications and outreach for HIV/TB programs.

Sandy has over a decade of advocacy and communications experience, having served as communications and knowledge management lead for the USAID-funded health system strengthening project Services de Santé de Qualité pour Haïti-Nord in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. He previously worked at the advertising agency TBWA\Corporate in Paris and at the global tobacco control network Framework Convention Alliance in Washington, DC.

Sandy holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Florida, a Master in International Public Management from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po Paris), and a Master in Communications from the Université Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne.



Maverick Collective Member

Cristina Ljungberg is a Co-founder of The Case for Her, a philanthropic investment portfolio addressing the key women’s health issues of menstruation and sexual health. Cristina has a Master’s in Biotechnology from Northwestern and an MBA from Dartmouth College. This combined expertise in business and healthcare has propelled her nearly two-decade journey in philanthropy.

Before The Case for Her, Cristina spent five years on the Board of Directors for Global Grassroots and established the nonprofit foundation Giving Wings in 2010. In 2016, Cristina became a founding member of the Maverick Collective.

In addition to her work with women’s health, Cristina is also a Partner at Influence Film—a foundation, investment firm, and online platform that supports documentary film production. She is also an active board member for the non-profit venture capital firm Acumen and AFRIpads, a manufacturer of reusable, washable sanitary pads.



Vice President of Education, International Impact, SESAME WORKSHOP

Nina Papadopoulos has worked for over 20 years promoting the right of education in stable, conflict, and crisis-affected environments with a diverse range of organizations. She is currently Vice President of Education, International Social Impact with Sesame Workshop, the non-profit behind Sesame Street. In this role, she provides technical leadership and strategic direction in designing, implementing and evaluating education initiatives. She also provides global thought leadership on humanitarian-development coherence in education, education and resilience, and inclusive education. She has served as Lead of USAID’s Covid-19 and Education Task Team and Team Lead – Education in Crisis and Conflict with USAID/E3/ED, where she provided leadership on technical assistance to 23 USAID missions.

Dr. Papadopoulos has been an adjunct at Georgetown University in the Program on Justice and Peace Studies and holds an Education Doctorate from the University of Massachusetts.

In her spare time, Dr. Papadopoulos enjoys listening to her various family members play jazz and making short documentary and fictional videos with her two sons.



Vice President, Impact and Growth, SURGO VENTURES

As Vice President, Impact and Growth, Hannah oversees Surgo Ventures’ portfolio of partnerships, helping solve complex problems using data, AI, behavioral science, and systems thinking.

She has more than a decade of experience working in public health and social impact having led projects related to strengthening health systems, HIV/AIDs, maternal and child health, reproductive health, and economic development in the U.S. and across low and middle income countries.Hannah’s career has spanned the private and public sectors, with stints at Deloitte Consulting’s Emerging Markets practice and U.S. Agency for International Development, and engagements around the globe, from Jordan to the Philippines to Tanzania.

Hannah has a Master’s in Public Administration and International Development from The George Washington University, and a BA in History and Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Virginia.



Senior Technical Advisor, SBC, PSI

Andréa Ferrand is a recognized expert in capacity strengthening and training design with 20 years of experience in applying research in SBC programs, facilitation, curriculum development, strategic planning, co-creation, community of practice development, and creating and scaling learning tools and systems.

Andréa is a seasoned SBC technical expert and program manager. Her 12 years of applied SBC experience include leading SBC capacity strengthening of subnational governments; scaling up best practices in SBC systems, management, coordination, and implementation through public sector health systems; supporting community-level behavior change; designing and implementing national-level multi-channel SBCC campaigns, with specialization in interpersonal communication; providing technical assistance for the design, monitoring, and evaluation of SBC programs including the use of new disciplines in SBC like behavioral economics and human-centered design; and managing USAID SBC and knowledge management contracts and cooperative agreements for family planning and reproductive health, maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and emerging pandemic threats in nearly 30 countries worldwide.

Andréa has an MPH from The George Washington University.




Rena Greifinger is an award-winning social entrepreneur, philanthropy leader, and advocate for women and girls. She currently leads Experiential Philanthropy at Population Services International (PSI) and is Managing Director of the Maverick Collective by PSI, a community of women philanthropists making catalytic investments in health and reproductive rights to elevate women and girls everywhere.

In 2018, Rena founded Maverick Next, an immersive two-year fellowship for emerging women leaders to actively participate in philanthropy and become informed advocates, bold leaders, and strategic investors in social impact. As PSI’s Global Youth & Girls Advisor for five years, she led the organization’s work in design-thinking and private sector approaches to adolescent sexual and reproductive health. Rena also founded Next Step’s One Love Project, an award-winning program that builds leadership, life-skills and mentoring support for young people living with HIV in the U.S. She sits on the boards of Next Step and Mamamtoto Village, a community based maternal health organization serving Black womxn in Washington D.C.

She is a recipient of the Harvard School of Public Health’s Albert Schweitzer Award, Sara’s Wish Foundation’s Global Humanitarian Award and was named one of Apolitical’s Top 100 Influencers in Gender Policy in 2021. Rena holds a Master of Science from the Harvard School of Public Health.