Acushla Young discussed Irise’s part in ending period stigma and poverty and how this is a relevant issue being experienced in both the UK and Uganda. Although the two countries are very culturally different, women, girls and people with periods experience the same embarrassment and shame born from menstrual stigma. The similar experiences between the two countries as a consequence of menstrual stigma in the UK and Uganda, for example, not being able to participate in education or work or being singled out and bullied due to your menstruating status. Acushla also discussed Irise’s new Empower Period campaign that is funded by the Act for Change fund. Empower Period is an initiative to end period shame in the UK, working in line with the UK government’s aim to end period poverty by 2025. The Empower Period Project will see the recruitment of 50 young people from diverse backgrounds leading their own advocacy projects to end shame directly within their communities, as well as at a national level.
Dr Sarita Panday’s research into period poverty in Nepal led her to discover a very different experience for many women within her native country. Sarita highlighted the unknown topic of Chhaupadi, which is a form of menstrual taboo which prohibits Hindu women and girls from participating in normal family life. Whilst menstruating, the women are viewed as ‘impure’ and sent into isolation, often in the form of staying in cowsheds for the duration of their period, as they must not come in contact with any men, boys or shared household objects.Although the practice was outlawed in 2005, it is still present in many rural communities and has extremely dangerous implications for the women. Sarita highlighted that although women are aware of the practice’s dangers, they have no power to change their situation, as men hold power and control in thecommunity. Sarita aims to educate and provide information to these rural communities to overcome this form of period poverty and in turn provide women with greater rights through their natural bodily function of menstruation.
Jane Poggo’s work in refugee camps in Southern Sudan included providing women with information about periods and hygiene and reusable menstrual pads. The education provided to the women about hygiene enabled the creation of soap within the camps, which was also used to clean the reusable pads provided. Jane highlighted the huge differences between South Sudan and the UK, for example, in many places in Sudan there is no running water so washing and cleaning is a major issue when the girls and women menstruate. CRESS is attempting to overcome this form of period poverty by making products more accessible to the women and girls who need them and providing communities with knowledge.
The talk was a great success in educating and helping others become aware of issues surrounding period stigma and poverty globally. The three speakers although all had very differing experiences and approaches, agreed on the message to speak up and continue discussing periods in order for us to end period stigma and period poverty!