“I developed really early and you know how things go, I told one person who told more people and I was teased at school because I was the first”
“I went on the internet to learn more about my period when I was 9 because I didn’t know what it was, I used a help line to find out and they were rubbish!”
Six student volunteers worked with 690 students across 3 schools, creating a safe space to ask questions, delivering teaching about menstruation and puberty and encouraging discussion around gender norms.
Students who took part in the sessions improved their knowledge of menstruation and built their confidence.
“We could say anything and we wouldn’t get in trouble for talking about it and we could share our opinions.”
Young people valued receiving support from their near peers, identifying students as role models who uderstood their needs better than teachers and parents. For volunteers it was an opportunity to help end menstrual stigma for everyone.
We spoke to Bianca, one of the volunteers empowering young people...
My favourite thing about these sessions is that the young people are in control, they lead the discussions and we let them develop their own shared understanding. We cover basic topics but allow them to discuss issues and subjects that they may be curious about often addressing their fears, worries and concerns.
I chose Irise because they focus not only on girls' sexual and reproductive health, they teach an inclusive curriculum that includes everybody. Teaching young men and boys that menstruation IS something they need to know about as having a shared understanding of each other's bodies, helps to create a more friendly and supportive environment for girls during adolescents, that's how you reduce the stigma.
“The education we deliver is honest and upfront, it also feels personal to me as I get to deliver these sessions in my local area, making a difference in my own community. I learnt so much…about my own body that I didn't know before joining Irise. When you can see that you have really helped a young person, if they have come to you to ask a question and walked away feeling more knowledgeable, confident and reassured, thanking you for your advice, you know you've made a valued difference.”
We asked Bianca to describe her experience volunteering with Irise in 3 words...
Educational - "I learnt so much about anatomy, puberty and even about my own body that I didn't know before joining Irise!"
Gratifying - "When you can see that you have really helped a young person, if they have come to you to ask a question and walked away feeling more knowledgeable, confident and reassured, thanking you for your advice, you know you've made a valued difference"
Valued - "Not only is the feedback from the young people really inspirational, it's also the feedback from the team. They ask for your opinion, input and evaluations, making you feel like a valued, respected and equal member of the team."
At Irise International we're committed to ending period poverty in the UK and Uganda. You can stand with us to end menstrual stigma this Christmas by doubling your donation in our Christmas Big Give between 27th November and 4th December.