We’ve been working really hard to understand how we can make a positive, long-lasting change to vulnerable people that menstruate, through engaging with community groups, talking to individuals, and putting the people that we’re trying to help at the heart of our project planning and development. In the process, we’ve met amazing people along the way – individuals with inspiring stories, and people who are working really hard to improve the lives of those in the local community, making Bristol a more inclusive, friendly and liveable city for those who struggle the most.
May was a really important month for our Tackling Period Poverty project. We have been developing sustainable lasting methods to tackle period poverty and change attitudes about periods, as well as ensuring these ways are delivered in a manner that is effective and useful for the people we work with. A few weeks ago, we delivered our first workshop with the women who attend Bristol Drugs Project’s women’s morning! This marked the start of our work with vulnerable groups to tackle period poverty.
We were really happy with our first workshop – but hey, don’t hear it just from us! Here’s what Becky, women’s morning’s lead Engagement Worker, had to say:
“ The workshop went really well! It’s quite a controversial topic, and to start off with, both clients and staff were a little bit sceptical about how it was going to go – it’s a bit of a difficult topic after all! However, the workshop did everything it said on the tin, and more. It was a really appropriate workshop for a women’s group. It helped break down the taboo around speaking about periods, and it really brought us all together.
In the weeks following the workshop, women attending the group have been a lot more open to talking about their health and periods, and they had been thinking a lot about the social issues surrounding periods, such as issues of affordability and sustainability, and how they can make a change in their lives. Our clients have come back asking questions, exploring different options available to them and really interested in swopping to a reusable sanitary product to save them money.
The activities that were in the workshop were really interesting and different – they were eye-opening, educational and practical. They helped us to think about women’s health more broadly, and made everyone really relaxed about opening up and speaking within the group setting.
The workshop had benefits beyond that of informing clients about periods – it really helped me in my role with working with vulnerable women. It taught me a lot about the issues surrounding period poverty and now I feel a lot more confident talking to women about their menstrual health. Not only has it been an informative session, but we feel closer as a group, making women feel more comfortable to engage in future sessions”.
What’s next for our work with Bristol Drugs Project? We’re going to be returning to the women’s morning and running a Period Clinic – one to one sessions with women who are wanting to switch to reusable products, talking them through the options and answering any questions or concerns that they have. We have got funding from Lush Charity Pot and the People’s Postcode Trust to run these workshops and supply women with reusable sanitary products – providing them with a sustainable solution to period poverty, without having to worry each month about buying tampons, relying on food banks, or going completely without.
So what's next? Our work is going to continue into the summer, with collaborations with Crisis Centre Ministries, Refugee Women of Bristol, Avonmouth Community Centre, and the Homeless Period Gloucestershire, and many more in the making! We’re not only excited to continue with our workshops, but also increase our reach beyond the city of Bristol into surrounding areas.
If you’d like to donate to the project, we’ve just launched a Crowdfunder for our new product, all the profits of which will go straight into funding Tackling Period Poverty! Check it out here , and the video below!
Research suggests that if my boyfriend and I were to walk into a hospital with the same agonizing mystery condition, his pain would be taken much more seriously than mine . In fact, 36% of women feel like their pain is ignored, dismissed or just not taken seriously by healthcare professionals. Now, I’m not saying that all doctors or nurses ignore women’s pain, and I’m certainly not suggesting that those who do, do so on purpose. But, there is a growing body of research that indicates that some women are not given the medical attention that they need because of gender bias. For example, an American study found that in comparison to men, women are considerably less likely to have their pain taken seriously, and medical professionals are more likely to hold back on treatment for women until after objective evidence into the cause of pain has been found.
And this isn’t a problem that just exists across the pond: a recent study on endometriosis carried out by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Women’s Health uncovered a shocking set of statistics. Although endometriosis has life-changing symptoms , such as debilitating pain, 40% were only referred to a gynaecologist after seeing their doctor at least 10 times and 42% said that their doctors had shown them no dignity or respect throughout the course of their diagnosis. Despite affecting nearly 2 million women in the UK and leaving suffers at risk of severe health problems , such as reduced fertility rates and increased likelihood of depression, endometriosis has publicly been labelled a “garbage bag disorder” by Doctor Drew. And it’s not just celebrity doctors who don’t take endometriosis seriously: women of all backgrounds and ages recall being told that it’s all in their head, that they’re a hypochondriac, that they just need to toughen up, that they’re being over-emotional, that that’s just how a women’s body works.
The question of whether women should receive ‘period leave’ has been a hot topic of debate ever since Dr Grudzinkas said that it would boost a woman’s motivation and productivity in the workplace. But would being given up to three days a month of paid ‘period leave’ help to break down menstrual taboos? Or will it make things worse?
I’m totally guilty of it – stuffing a sanitary pad up my sleeve so that I don’t have to walk past my colleagues with it in view. Never, ever wearing light coloured clothes when I’m on my period, just in case I end up with blood stains on my clothes. And refusing to take sick leave because I don’t want to have to tell anyone that it’s my time of the month, even if my cramps are so bad I can’t stand up properly. So will ‘period leave’ help us talk more openly about menstruation and go some towards stopping many of the stigmas that surround it?
Last year, Bristol based Coexist made the headlines after announcing that they were going to bring in a “period policy” that would allow those suffering from painful periods to time off of work without declaring it as sick leave. Although the policy was introduced to make Coexist more work efficient, less than 6 months after it was introduced, staff reported that period embarrassment had become a thing of the past within the office environment. Women spoke freely about their periods and shared with their colleagues what stage in their cycle they were at. By encouraging female staff to mirror their workloads to their natural bodily cycles, Coexist employers felt like menstrual taboos had been combatted in their office.
So ‘period leave’ can’t be a bad thing, right?
Well, some believe that it is. That’s because not everyone thinks that ‘period leave’ will help to tackle menstrual stigma. By taking a day or two off from work to rest, some worry that women will be seen as ‘weak’ and unable to cope with the way that their bodies naturally function. We’ve been fighting for years for equal recognition in the workplace, and submitting to our bodies in such a way could undo the rights that we’ve won over the decades.
Some worry that such a policy will result in society taking three steps backward, and bosses will once again feel like discriminatory ‘favouring’ is justified just as it once was because of women taking maternity leave. Female employers who don’t take ‘period leave’, along with their male counterparts, will be favoured over those who do choose to take the time off, increasing the stigmas attached to menstruation. A ‘period policy’ would be counterproductive and would actually make it harder for women suffering from painful periods to take the time off they need.
And others argue that encouraging women to stay at home when on their periods will push talk about periods even further behind doors – out of sight out of mind, after all.
It seems that the debate cannot be easily solved. What is clear, however, is that we should be working towards demystifying periods and making sure that no woman is made to feel ashamed or embarrassed. Unfortunately, the question of whether this will be achieved by a national ‘period policy’ is much harder to answer.
What do you think? Comment below and let us know your thoughts!
NoMoreTabooer Alex blogs here about leaks:
While it’s a normal thing to happen while you are adjusting to your cup, you should master inserting it after 2-3 periods. If after that period you still struggle and these bloody leaks are putting you off the reusable sanitary products, check out our little guide to prevent them:
Job Description- Events and Crowdfunding Internship
Job Purpose: No More Taboo is a social enterprise empowering society to revolutionise the way we talk, view and manage periods. We are passionate about ensuring all women everywhere have a happier, healthier and more affordable period. Whether that is empowering a woman living in poverty in Bristol to have the confidence to access sanitary products, or helping a girl in Bolivia learn the facts about menstruation, or providing women and girls in the UK with a choice of sustainable sanitary products.
We are at a pivotal stage of our development, we are currently launching a brand new subscription box and plan to launch this through a crowdfunding campaign, the crowdfunding will start on 28th May (international menstrual hygiene day) and run for one month, we are aiming to raise a minimum of £10,000. As part of this campaign we plan to have a major Launch Event in mid-June, which we need support in organising. This is an opportunity to gain experience in event management and to have the freedom to be creative. We are already working on developing an exciting crowdfunding campaign but need support to put this into action. This is an ideal internship for anyone looking to gain experience in the not-for-profit, charity, social enterprise or start-up sector. Working in a small team you will have responsibility, will play a key role in our development and gain a wide range of experience.
Key Tasks and Responsibilities:
-Plan and deliver our major Launch event in mid-June.
-Marketing and promoting events and crowdfunding campaign with the support of the marketing and communications team.
-Helping with expanding networks and finding key supporters for the crowdfunding campaign.
-Helping to develop and source resources for crowdfunding campaign including video and rewards.
-Developing, coordinating and running activities for the events.
-Managing and administrating the events budgets with support from the Directors.
-Organising venue(s), communicating with venue owners exactly what is required and setting clear expectations, including preparation of venue.
-Ensuring all resources for events, such as leaflets, promotional materials and any extra equipment required for running a successful event are prepared in a timely manner.
-Promoting the events and crowdfunding with local media, including writing press releases.
-Engaging the Bristol public, through social media or other means in the build up to the event and crowdfunding.
-Managing, assisting with recruitment and training of other volunteers to help out at the event.
-General promotion of the no more taboo ethos and advocacy of the issues throughout the duration of the role.
-Assisting with general administration including answering emails, sending out invitations, preparing resources, managing the budget, keeping clear records of spending and reporting back to manager.
Full training and induction shall be provided.
Confident self- starter
Experience of coordinating events and/or teams
Committed and able to dedicate two full days each week to the role.
Interested in our causes and ethos around menstruation, sanitation and the environment.
Proven verbal and written communication skills
Team working experience.
Confidence to work on own initiative with minimum supervision but knowing when to consult with and inform others.
Organised, able to set and meet own targets and goals.
Happy to work from home on occasion and prepared to work in hot-desking spaces.
Creativity and imagination.
Confidence to experiment.
Experience of events promotion.
Experience of crowdfunding or similar fundraising tools.
Competent with social media and communication tools.
Experience of working with the charity or not for profit sector.
Salary: Travel and food expenses- £8 per day.
Location: Bristol with occasional working from home.
Hours: 15 hours per week (Equivalent to 2 full days but flexible)
Term: Minimum 8 weeks, 120 hours.
Reports to: Alex Kmiecik (Director)
How to Apply:
Closing Date: Midnight, 30th April
You will hear back from us on 1st May whether you are successfully through to interview stage or not.
Interview Date: 3rd, 4th, 5th May 2017 in Bristol, (we appreciate this is a tight timeline and will have flexibility on times of day e.g. we can interview in the evening or at a time to suit you)
Start Date: Week commencing 8th May.
Voluntary Internship working 2 days per week. Responsible for planning and running events and supporting the delivery of our crowdfunding campaign to launch a new product. Ideal internship for anyone looking to gain experience in the not-for-profit, charity, social enterprise or start-up sector.
With an entire adventure playground, a ping pong table and a pool table all ready to be enjoyed waiting outside our room, our hopes were not initially high that we would attract a group of teenage boys into our workshop about periods. However, soon enough, some of the young men wandered in to see what we were doing. Most of them ended up talking to us and participating enthusiastically in the workshop for the next hour and a half!
The attitudes these young men held towards menstruation were extremely encouraging:
They also surprised me by offering up an alternative name for period - ‘reds’. I am definitely going to look out for that one!Overall, it was extremely promising to see a group of teenage boys voluntarily give us their time to participate in the workshop. As pilot projects go, it was a success: they learnt more about menstruation, and we learned more about how to discuss menstruation with teenage boys and young men. Thank you very much for an educational and heartening experience, boys!
This week, from the 18th to the 25th of February, is Homelessness Awareness Week in Bristol. We want to kick off the week by showcasing some pictures with you that powerfully capture the reality faced by rough sleepers every day. Images are the most effective way to give justice to all those who struggle to raise their voices and are usually silent; they are the best way to honour the people that live behind the statistics. We have chosen some shots by photographers who – instead of just stealing pictures at a distance - decided to interact with homeless people, in order to go beyond the prejudices and connect with them.
Lee Jeffries was only an amateur photographer when he took the first picture of a homeless person in London. He tried to capture the image of an 18-year-old girl with evident addiction problems, who was rolled up in a sleeping bag among food containers. He used a long lens from a distance, but the girl noticed him. She was understandably upset and started shouting at him; however, instead of sneaking off, Jeffries decided to approach her and apologise. He listened to her story and discovered that she had lost both of her parents and, as a consequence, had no place to go. On that day, Jeffries realised that his passion for photography could be something more than a hobby: it could become a useful tool to draw attention on homelessness and raise funds for charities. He started a self-funded project and took dozens of emotional portraits of rough sleepers around the world, listening to their stories and connecting with them on a deeper level.
"I’m stepping into their world. Everyone else walks by like the homeless are invisible. I’m stepping through the fear, in the hope that people will realise these people are just like me and you".
How can something as private and intimate as handling your period really be a human right? Most of us connect our periods to an uncomfortable few days that involves hot water bottles, paracetamol and probably a lot more chocolate than we usually let ourselves eat. We wake up feeling icky and a bit sore, wanting to jump into a hot shower first thing in the morning. Does the state really have an obligation to our menstruating bodies?
Well, actually, yes, but it goes pretty unnoticed to us lucky pups in the UK. We almost always have access to clean, private bathrooms, we can afford to stock up on tampons and all the ones we use get neatly chucked away by the bin people (thanks guys. P.s. If you’re wanting to make the change to reusable products to stop wasting your money and the earth’s resources, check out our shop here )
Unfortunately, there are thousands of people around the world who don’t have the access to basic sanitary materials, private bathrooms or waste disposal facilities necessary for a clean, comfortable and even safe period.
In these situations, there are a whole load of basic human rights that are being violated. Firstly, that of human dignity : we all have the right to live in dignity, and having nowhere to change your sanitary materials or clean yourself in private is definitely a breach of dignity. Connected to this, are the human rights to water, sanitation and health . There are so many documented examples of women in rural India using old cloths, ash and leaves to soak up their periods, and the lack of private, safe and clean bathrooms such as in this displacement camp in Haiti . This lack of sanitation, of course, has massive impacts on your health. You don’t have to be a top notch gynaecologist to know that using dirty, bacteria ridden rags is going to give you a stinking infection down there. The really grave matter is that it is happening right now, to hundreds of thousands of people across the world.
The inability to manage your period in a dignified manner means that the human rights to education and work are also affected. Attendance records are pretty unreliable across the board, but it’s estimated that 17% of women and girls have missed school or work due to their periods. Well – if you haven’t got any pads, and your school doesn’t have proper toilet facilities – what are you really going to do!? This is wholly unfair: participation in learning and the economy should not be disproportionately affected due to menstruation.
This all ties in with one of our human rights at the heart of this issue: the right to gender equality . Taboos and stigma surrounding menstruation leads to negative attitudes about those who menstruate, and stifles conversation and learning. This leads to – you guessed it – nothing being done to solve the issue. However, menstrual hygiene is slowly becoming integrated with water, hygiene and sanitation programmes in low-income countries, and educational projects are being rolled out to combat taboos and discriminatory practices. This is great – but we need to ensure that these projects are culturally appropriate , environmentally friendly, long-lasting and effective. There is progress being made on ensuring menstruators’ human rights are not being violated.
We’ve got to remember that there are many people in the UK who also might not be able to have a dignified period: homeless people. Lack of access to showers, having to constantly use public toilets and not even having enough money to pay for sanitary products all point to similar human rights violations that we’re seeing in the Global South: lack of sanitation and poor health. We’re currently working with homeless organisations across Bristol to implement gender-sensitive policies and improve conditions for homeless menstruators. If you want to ensure a happy period for a homeless person in Bristol, and support the expansion of our important work, make sure you gift somebody our Tackling Period Poverty gift pack this Christmas. Find all the details here .
On Human Rights Day, we need to remember the importance of a dignified, clean period free of stigma for all.