We need to talk! Don’t worry, it’s nothing scary. It’s just about periods! It’s a conversation that we to need have at some point; so why not start now?
Menstruation is a taboo topic with even more taboos attached to it. Despite seeing an increase in the openness to talk about something natural that all women go through – once a month for most of their lives – this conversation still lacks diversity in its participants. Period poverty – in its many shapes and forms – is not a women’s issue, it’s a global issue that impacts everyone.
As part of Water Action Month, End Water Poverty and its member (WaterAid UK) teamed up with Co-Founder of the Pink Protest, Grace Campbell and author, Alastair Campbell and put their knowledge about periods to the test. This was a simple conversation – about a normal bodily process – between two generations and two genders. During this activity, Grace Campbell and her father learnt about and discussed the sheer differences in taboos associated with the word ‘period’ from around the world.
“We need to be talking to our fathers, boyfriends, brothers, bosses and friends about periods. If we want to smash the taboos and end period poverty, we need to make it a totally normalised part of our dialogue”. – Grace Campbell
When you take it out its context, the word ‘period’ is not scary at all. I could shout this word five times and it will not have any impact on me. Period, period, period, period, period. See? I feel nothing! But many women do fear this word for the following reasons:
- A lack of understanding – many women lack full understanding of what is happening to their bodies and what it means to them when they get their first periods.
- The stigmas – many women fear the reaction of those closest to them as they could be treated differently because of this (such as being forced to sleep in huts for the duration of their periods).
Although many of us are continuously encouraging ourselves and other women to speak openly about periods and be proud to do so, in at least one stage of our lives, we have been guilty of saying ‘I’m on my’ with a loud voice followed by a soft whisper saying ‘period’. As though we’re proud to say 90% of that sentence but the final word brings us shame. Women may be comfortable talking about periods to one another, but it becomes an uncomfortable topic of discussion once you put men in the same room or environment. That’s why their understanding, involvement and participation in these conversations is vital.
“One thing I’ve learnt – by having a daughter who is active in this area – is that period poverty is real and it’s an issue that has to be addressed. We’re not going to address it if we don’t just open up a bit.” – Alastair Campbell
When it comes to periods, men often avoid joining the conversation due to a lack of knowledge and understanding of the matter. We hope that this is a starting point and highly encourage everyone to start these conversations with their friends and families (particularly focusing on involving men in these conversations). The more these conversations are had, the more normal they will seem, the more empowered women will feel, the more understanding men will become and the easier it will be for future generations to overcome stigmas around periods.
The UK Government and Department for International Development’s recent announcements are good first steps to tackle period poverty. However, providing funds and free products to girls does not prevent the intensification of the stigmas and taboos many women (and men) fear. A conversation needs to be had in order to ensure sustainable change and the elimination of these stigmas.
If we want to leave no one behind and reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, then the call to actions to end period poverty and shame should not stop with governments. This is a call to action for absolutely everyone.
“The silence and taboos around periods mean that there isn’t enough of a debate about toilets and water facilities being accessible to everyone. This needs to change. Let’s talk about periods.” – Grace Campbell
Episode two (Grace and Alastair Campbell Talk Period Euphemisms)
Episode three (Grace and Alastair Campbell's Period Quiz)
We would like to thank Grace and Alastair Campbell for joining us in creating this video series along with our member WaterAid UK.