Period Talk- Irise on how to address periods during COVID-19
In case you missed it, here’s a summary of what we shared in the recent global webinar about periods during pandemics.
An effective response must be values driven. We care about periods because we care about systematic biases that mean vulnerable women and girls are overlooked and their voices unheard. This will only get worse during the current crisis.
The slide below shows Irise’s usual Theory of Change with an analysis of the situation in the communities we work with in Uganda. This is comparable to the situation in communities we work with in the UK.
We’re seeing the mechanisms for delivering a holistic response to period poverty and shame being shut down. Communities and schools are inaccessible, usual advocacy channels are being shut down and supportive services are limited and overstretched.
Period Inequality has always been a broader problem than products with complicated mechanisms of harm. We’re seeing escalating harm via three main pathways:
1. Infection and Indignity
Less resources mean that its harder to access products, soap, water and private facilities. This means girls are more likely to be overusing dirty products and struggling to wash, increasing their risk of urogenital infection at a time when they are less able to access health services.
2. Vulnerability to Harm
The stigma and shame surrounding periods are expressions of beliefs that do not value women and girls. Lock down creates a pressure cooker of these harmful beliefs pushing vulnerable girls into crisis. Vulnerable girls already at risk of engaging in transactional for pads and other gender specific needs are under more pressure than ever before. Child-led households are particularly vulnerable. We know that domestic violence is escalating around the world.
3. Giving Care
We know that women do the majority of formal and informal care. At a time when they are being asked to do more the barriers to their participation are accentuated. This includes access to period products and support.
People and organisations who care about periods must use their strengths to support a holistic, gender sensitive response that includes periods. Periods have always been at their most powerful when integrated into a cross sector response. This is now more important than ever.
We must do what the period movement has always done so well. We must capture the stories of vulnerable women and girls and ensure their voices are heard. In Uganda, we’re working with our community champions to capture stories via What’s App and share them with the government emergency task force and other stakeholders to advocate for their needs to be met and for a gender sensitive response.
It is the harmful social norms that can cause irreparable damage during lock down. We must find innovative ways to continue social norm and education work.
Critical to this is having agile and adaptive plans that can rapidly change in accordance with the context over the coming months. We cannot just react, we must plan agilely for girls’ empowerment. In Uganda, our plans include education resource packs about puberty and periods for children to do at home, training local officials to continue to support parents to address girls needs during their periods and when possible, community radio shows.
We must meet the gender specific needs of vulnerable women and girls. Critically provision of gender specific products creates an opportunity to also provide information about how women and girls can access additional support. In Uganda, we’re working with local government to add menstrual products, soap and information to emergency food parcels.
We need a values driven, agile response that can protect our pathways to empowerment over the coming months. We need much more than pads.