Martha: Political Lobbying Coordinator

My name’s Martha, originally from sunny sunny Southend! I moved to Manchester a year ago to start work as a social worker and am slowly adjusting to the northern climate. You’ll find me watching trashy TV, at the theatre or cinema, nursing a gin and tonic or hunting down a good cup of coffee and some cake.

1.What’s your role with Every Month? What will you be doing?

I’m the political lobbying co-ordinator for Every Month! I’ll be working on campaigns to mobilise our people power to create some change at a local and national level. I hope to get people influencing their MPs and councillors to put period justice on their agendas so that menstrual products are finally seen as a basic need rather than a luxury!

2. How did you find out about the campaign?

I came to Rosy’s talk at the Nexus Art Café (Bloody Marvellous- both in name and content!) and learnt all about the fab work she was doing to get the project started in Manchester.

3. What interested you about getting involved?

I was completely inspired by the period positivity of the campaign and wanted to work with a group of like-minded feminists to spread the word! I think periods are still a massively taboo subject so wanted to get involved with something that was showing women and girls that periods are nothing to be ashamed of, all whilst promoting social justice at the same time, what a combo.

4. Where do you hope the campaign will be in a year’s time? 

I hope the campaign will have expanded its reach across Manchester, so that fewer women are being disadvantaged and discriminated against by a basic bodily function. As part of this, I’m hoping we’ll have the vocal support of MPs across Manchester that this issue needs to be addressed!

5. Who are you inspired by?

So many wonderful women! But I’m a huge fan of Alice Walker, she writes like an absolute dream and has given voices to so many women both in her fiction and her activism. And of course, she started off as a social worker… the list goes on!

6. What books/documentaries/films etc do you recommend to everyone?

Documentaries- Blackfish, The Hunting Ground, Making a Murderer, Iris, Whores’ Glory, I’ve always got a new one I’m raving about

Books- Mrs Dalloway is my absolute favourite, anything by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I studied a lot of Elfriede Jelinek at uni and still haven’t quite lost my obsession with her

Films- I’ve spent the past year telling anyone who hasn’t seen Moonlight to watch it immediately!

7. What change would you like to see in the way menstruation is currently discussed?

I’d love to take all of those tampons and pads hidden up sleeves at work and school and get them proudly held up in the air! We need to speak openly and frankly about menstruation rather than using fluffy euphemisms.

8 What would you tell your younger self about periods?

Stop worrying about not getting your period yet- enjoy those cramp-free days because there’s more to being a woman than just starting your period!

9. What helps you most when you’re on your period?

A good old-fashioned hot water bottle and my bed, the comfiest place on earth. And a thousand episodes of whatever box set I’m obsessed with at the moment…

10. Anything you’d like to add?

I hope as many people as possible want to get involved in our campaign, we need people power! If you’d like to get involved or have any ideas for campaigns, drop me a line at everymonthlobby@gmail.com

NGOs and aid workers help women make clean and cheap sanitary napkins.

According to a 2011 study by AC Nielsen, only 12% of India’s 335 million adult women could afford sanitary products. Despite this, in July 2017, sanitary products were classed as non essential in India’s latest legislation; taxing them at 12% and making them even more unavailable to the people who need them.

The high costs of products are forcing people to use unsanitary means and causing irritation, discomfort and sometimes infection. Not only this, Indian people are being silenced by the negative and historic stigma associated with periods and not obtaining the information and care they need.

Ever since we were little girls, we have been taught to be embarrassed about our periods, to never speak about our monthly “curse,” to hide sanitary pads up our sleeves.
I know so many married men, who live with wives, mothers and daughters, yet have never seen a sanitary pad in their lives. This is not just their fault, it is also ours — for allowing ourselves to be part of a culture that punishes women for simply having their period.

Women of strict Hindi faith are prohibited to take part in day to day activities such as cooking and prayer whilst on their period. They can’t enter a temple or attend religious events.  Anything they touch whilst menstruating becomes contaminated. These beliefs are centuries old and deep rooted in culture and religion and passed down throughout generations. Although not as widely believed as they once were, these concepts are still having an impact on the relationship people have with their periods (check out this great article written by Anisha Bavnani for more information).

The good news is a number of Indian companies and campaigns are striving to change this perception of periods by tackling legislation, providing free education and promoting reusable sources.

Here are just a few examples of organisations leading the way:

1.  Saathi Pads

Saathi Pads was founded in 2015 with the aim to provide biodegradable, comfortable and hygienic pads. The pads are made with banana fibre from the stem of banana trees.  Saathi Pads pays local collectors for the stems which are usually discarded. They’re proud that their main production source takes up no extra land.

2. Eco Femme

Eco Femme are championing menstrual education and health with their reusable pads. They want to empower their buyers by choosing an economical and environmentally friendly product. The company run a number of schemes, encouraging buyers to gift free pads to teenagers (Pad for Pad)  and introducing cloth pads to marginalised women (Pads for Sisters).

3. Green the Red

Green the Red is a collective of companies and campaigns promoting healthy conversations about menstruation and environmentally friendly alternatives to disposable pads. They are determined to influence the current taxation of sanitary products to exclude reusable products. Their website is super informative on menstrual cups, washable clothes, inter-labia pads and period panties.

All of these companies are providing services to young people in India, encouraging them to speak up about their menstrual health and well being. Websites like Menstrupedia are reinventing the negative legacy of periods by providing literature to teenagers which explain the biology of menstruation.

Our need to speak up about periods is part of a worldwide conversation. We can help each other by signing campaigns, reading blogs, retweeting links and engaging in dialogues with organisations from all over the world.

Rosy: Founder of the Every Month campaign

1. When did you start the campaign?

I started the campaign in May 2016, when I was in my final months of uni.

2. What inspired you to start Every Month?

I’m not sure what inspired me exactly, but I think I just felt a NEEDED to do something. I had found out that there was no guaranteed way to access sanitary products if you couldn’t afford them and I guess I just thought I could give fixing that a go.

3. Where do you hope the campaign will be in a year’s time? 

I mean the absolute dream is for the campaign not to exist. I feel that we should be working towards the government providing access to sanitary products as they’re a NECESSITY and not everyone can afford them. So, hopefully in a years time we won’t exist! However, if we’re still going then I hope we’re expanding into other cities… ooo who knows!?

4. Who are you inspired by?

Is it really cringe if I say my mum? My mum is 100% my biggest inspiration because she gets shit done but also doesn’t get caught up in the little things. So, I will stress about the tiniest thing and my mum will just be like, “ahh fuck it, you’ll be ok.” I’m inspired by so many cool and amazing women but I have really really amazing friends, who are clever and funny and so kind. Obviously I would ride and die all day long for Sarah Silverman and Malala Yousafzai, in no particular order. They are equal queens in my eyes.

5. What books/documentaries/films etc do you recommend to everyone?

If you only read two books in your life then they must be Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. Honestly, those books changed my life. I only really watch true crime documentaries, so I don’t know how great my recommendations are on that front – although if you have a need to really cry then watch Dear Zachary and DM me about it. I hear good things about the new film The Trip, and my all time fave film is Die Hard and I’m not even ashamed of it.

6. What change would you like to see in the way menstruation is currently discussed?

I just want an open discussion and an honest dialogue. I want companies to stop using words like ‘whisper’ and ‘discrete’ and I want people to acknowledge that there are a million different experiences of menstruation.

7. What would you tell your younger self about periods?

I would tell myself that it doesn’t look like lip tint and that I wont ever leak onto my chair in class.

8. What helps you most when you’re on your period?

I cramp really badly and it aches all the way down into my ankles. I also have to poo constantly, to the point that it gets in the way of living my normal life.

9. Anything you’d like to add?

I am so grateful to have the team on board. We’re going to achieve amazing things together and everyone should WATCH THIS SPACE <3

 

 

Related image

Despite periods being a biological function since forever, sanitary products only started progressing in the 1920’s. Historical monthly menstruaters made their periods work however best they could – often keeping it very private to avoid being stigmatised. Over the eras, periods have been linked to sorcery, uncleanliness, impurity and hysteria. There was such lack of knowledge about menstruation, it wasn’t until the 19th century that doctors even made the link between periods and pregnancy.

So how did people cope? What did they use? Here’s a brief run down.

Ancient Romans: goose fat or dung

 As well as being used for tampon substitutes, some historians also believe they used goose fat and dung as contraceptive methods.

The Egyptians : softened papyrus/lint covered wood

As the Egyptians left us little info on  periods (although, there are some hieroglyphics referencing a god who didn’t like menstruation..!) there is some debate as to whether they above were actually used.

Medieval: material/rags/wool

Pads were made of scrap fabric or rags (actually where the phrase ‘on the rag’ comes from). They also used wool if they had to although itchy and less effective than cotton. They also had to find a way to keep the fabric in place as underwear wasn’t common then.

1800’s: fur/moss/cotton
Those who could afford it made their own pads from fur, linen or cotton. It was extremely common for the poorer to have bloody clothes because they had no means to make their own pads.

1890’s: the Sanitary Belt

If you haven’t seen one of these before, they look a lot like a chastity belt with cotton pinned on the inside. These were still available until the 1980’s before stick on sanitary pads were as widely available.

1914: cellulose bandages

French nurses during World War One realised that the cellulose bandages they were using on their patients were perfect disposable sanitary pads. They were also cheap enough and in so much surplus to be thrown away after one use.

1921: the sanitary pad

Shortly after the war, Johnson & Johnson picked up on the cellulose bandage idea and produced the sanitary pad en mass with a similar structure and material. They were expensive and many  were too embarrassed to buy them. Shops started putting boxes on the shelf for them to drop their money into so they wouldn’t have to talk to the Cashier.

1929: the tampon

The first Tampax tampons were made at home on a sewing machine by Dr Earle Haas. He patented them Tampax and sold it on to a company. There were many who disagreed with them, believing they could affect a girl’s virginity and break her hymen.

1987: the menstrual cup

So the first ever menstrual cups were actually made in 1937 but were widely unused. Originally they were made of rubber which made them uncomfortable and harder to insert. It wasn’t until 1987 that the silicon cup was created and widely produced. Even today they aren’t used as commonly as pads and tampons despite being more economical and environmental.

 

Nadia Tahari: Packaging and Delivering

About Me

I am a costume designer/maker, mostly making bespoke stuff for drag queens, and also work at Hollyoaks as a seamstress. I moved to central Manchester about 2 years ago from London and I think it’s the best place ever! I also love hot yoga, learning everything about craft I can and being a bad ass feminist witch.

1.What’s your role with Every Month? What will you be doing?

I am going to be helping with the packing and delivering of our period packs! I will be making sure my designated donation drop ‘Reach Out to the Community’ in Chorlton has sufficient amount of packs every month.

2. How did you find out about the campaign?

I was following the Every Month campaign on Instagram and was very eager to volunteer when there was a shout out for it.

3. What interested you about getting involved?

Menstruation can be, for some people, difficult to talk about. It’s still a taboo to talk freely about our bodies which can have a damaging effect on those who are in need.
All women deserve dignity and hygiene and providing these packs and raising awareness is something I felt very strongly about being involved with.

4. Where do you hope the campaign will be in a year’s time?

I hope we can grow and expand, getting our packs into new centres and directly to more people in need. Also to expand futher a field and get people from other cities on board.

5. Who are you inspired by?

I’m always inspired by people around me, my friends and family who all have different lives and qualities I hugely respect and admire. I’m also obsessed with influential women in history, such as Eleanor of Aquitaine or Mary Wollstonecraft, who completely changed the way the world perceived women.

6. What books/documentaries/films etc do you recommend to everyone?

Any history book you can get your hands on, reading about a subject from more than three sources will often give you a well rounded reflection on the past and mostly help you understand why the world is as it is now.

7. What change would you like to see in the way menstruation is currently discussed?

I think society needs to break the stigma on talking freely about menstruation, it needs to be better taught in schools and at home. It should be celebrated and treated as a normal bodily function, the disdain for it needs to be wiped out.

8 What would you tell your younger self about periods?

I was never ashamed or embarrassed when i was younger as I was never taught to be. Id tell myself to keep being proud and maybe when I got older to not try hiding it away in early relationships. Your body is not shameful.

9. What helps you most when you’re on your period?

Sleep!

10. Anything you’d like to add?

Have I said ‘Girl Power’ yet? 😉