By Mia Klitsas - Founder, Moxie.
Today is Menstrual Hygiene Day, a day where organisations, governments, leaders, women and people around the world unite to raise awareness and improve education around good menstrual hygiene management, break taboos associated with menstruation and encourage decision makers at global, national and local levels to increase the political priority for menstrual hygiene management within their communities.
Many of us living in developed countries like Australia may not have really ever worried too much about period management. Most of us are fortunate enough to have a variety of products at our disposal, a trusted adult to guide us through what can often be a daunting time and the freedom to do whatever we want when it’s our ‘time of the month’.
But for so many people around the world – Australia included (though most prevalent in developing countries) – this is far from reality. Period poverty is a very real and very serious issue, and often one of human rights. Many are forced to ‘free-bleed’ (and not by choice) simply because they do not have access to adequate menstrual hygiene solutions; some will sell their bodies or go without food in exchange for sanitary items; many will miss out on receiving a proper education and others will be sent away from home and from their families to ‘deal with’ their monthly visitor alone. The challenges become more complex for transgender people or people who were born intersex, as they are often denied or have difficulty finding health services that can assist them in experiencing and managing their periods with dignity and without judgement.
The disadvantages associated with being a person with a period in many communities and parts of the world are GREAT and unfathomable to some of us, but these issues are very, very real for so many more. Just because it doesn’t affect you directly doesn’t mean that you don’t have the opportunity or the responsibility to help drive change.
So what can you do?
Well, what can WE do, more like. This is a collective problem - not just for women, but for men, too. We need to strive for menstrual equality, ensuring that EVERY person who has a period has adequate access to the products, support and education they need to help them experience their menstrual cycle with comfort, confidence and dignity.
Firstly, we need to start talking about periods; with each other, with our community leaders, with our teachers, parents, friends – like they’re not a shameful, dirty, embarassing thing. What can you do to support your local community? You might choose to donate some products to a homeless shelter or a school, or even if you can only afford to help ONE person, that impact is GREAT. If everyone did a little bit, collectively, we’ll achieve something pretty darn incredible!
Secondly, think about your consumer choices and how they can make an impact. Some brands and businesses will support those in need through one-for-one initiatives or cash donations in exchange for products purchased. We love the idea of providing the solution rather than the means to one, which can often get chewed up in admin costs, which is why we provide free donations to local Australian initiatives via the sale of our Moxie products sold online (you shop, we donate on your behalf! AND... until midnight tomorrow, we’re donating a pack of Moxie to a person in need via Share the Dignity for EVERY online purchase).
Thirdly, and this one’s for the men: you’ve all got sisters, mums, aunts, wives, daughters, female colleagues and friends, and possibly friends who identify as males (who still bleed) – most of whom will have experienced a period or two (or eleventy thousand – at least, combined!) and it would really mean a heap if you were a little (more?!) open and empathetic around their experience. Don’t gasp when they say they have PMS, or need the afternoon off to just lie on the couch with a hot water bottle, or when they leave their tamps on the desk. Ask how they’re feeling and if there’s anything you can do to help. Help normalise these conversations!
Lastly, and for those of us who do bleed: we need to do more work around feeling less ashamed and instead, being more ‘period proud’. This doesn’t mean that we all have to start free bleeding and announcing our periods from the rooftops (unless of course, we want to) - but it means doing whatever we’re comfortable doing, being ok with it and not caring what anyone else thinks. Leave your Moxie tin on your desk - it’s no biggie. If you experience a little period mishap on your new jeans - that’s also no biggie (this has happened to MOST OF US). Pretending we don’t have periods, particularly around men? This also needs to stop. Our periods are the reason we’re all here. We need to chill when it comes to feeling embarrassed and ashamed and just live our lives, uninhibited by our menstrual cycles. Breaking down these barriers and leading by example is really the only way we’re going to help each other overcome these hurdles. It’s called the (positive) domino affect and where periods are concerned, it’s well overdue.
Until end of day tomorrow*, we’ll donate a pack of Moxie to a person in need via Share the Dignity for every online purchase. Shop your monthly must-haves and support those who need our help, too.
Please note that donations will be shipped directly to Share the Dignity on your behalf. Online purchase = every separate checkout/transaction.
Cover images by Beccy Vassie for Moxie's 'Pads for Pads' initiative, Uganda 2013.
* Ends 11:59pm AEST 29.05.19