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Menstrual Health Day. Positivity. Period. #PeriodPoverty

Red Wave Talks on June 7th,  explored holistically the reasons why Menstrual Hygiene Day (May, 28) is an occasion of both celebration and reflection for us all. The intelligent passion demonstrated by our period positive allies gave us reason to feel empowered, and we think you should feel it too.  

Ruby Raut - our wonderful host and founder of WUKA period panties, welcomed the crowd with an anecdote of period poverty from her birthplace of Nepal. As is still customary across many parts of the developing world, she handled her first period (and many thereafter) using a saari rag.  

Saari’s are often used for this purpose, still adorned with their intricate sequins and beads. According to social tradition (Chhaupadi), menstruation is perceived as a sequence of impurity and abnormality. For the majority of women and girls on their period, it is an experience of being  untouchable and living in isolation from their community.

Menstrual dignity for all girls all over the world has previously been described by Manjit Gill, founder of charity and social enterprise Binti, to be her 'passion and obsession'. Binti’s mission is to advocate for the normalisation of menstruation - this means the provision of available products for those who need them most, and importantly, to fight against the myths and stigma around it that persist across the world.

Manjit Gill
 meets Arunachalam Murugunatham, aka "The Menstruation Man" or "Padman".

The Binti ‘rose prose’ was a beautiful illustration for the vision of menstrual hygiene day, to create a world of dignity surrounding menstruation and to tackle the obstacles disabling girls and women from reaching their full potential.

The red rose symbolises both love and the menstruation cycle. Like the rose, during this time the uterus lining blooms and sheds. The thorns on the stem of the rose remind us of the pains of menstruation. When held as pictured below, the rose acts as a totem that says ‘I respect me’  or ‘I respect her’.

This lack of dignity and respect is a reality that is experienced far closer to home than you might think.

Lucy Russell spoke of her work as campaign manager for the girls’ rights charity Plan International UK. In their report, which looked specifically into girls’ experiences of menstruation in the UK, they found that ‘negative talk about periods are damaging girls’ self-esteem and sense of self-worth, putting their physical health at risk and contributing to period poverty’Shockingly, in the UK alone, 70% of girls have been forbidden from going to their school toilets to change their sanitary products after asking their teacher. These findings gave rise to their menstrual manifesto, which foregrounds the role of education in tackling the shame, stigma and ignorance surrounding periods. 

If our school environment fails to equip girls with the knowledge and understanding to manage their period with dignity, what does this say about our society in general? This is why, as Lucy expressed,
we must keep periods on the agenda and all help transform these words into action through spreading awareness and taking ownership of the conversation.

And we couldn’t agree more.

This is the opening article for our coverage of the Red Wave Talks. Learn more about why 
#MenstruationMatters in part two

Written by Kemi Akilapa for Grace & Green 


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