I’ve had my period for over three decades now. Yay me. Over that time I’ve experienced many emotions. I got my first Lady Time on my 13th birthday. It was so not the present I wanted or expected.
I was underwhelmed.
I quickly worked out the joys of pads and tampons. And over the next fifteen years, apart from the odd cramp and sugar craving, menstruation wasn’t much of an issue for me. I bought the stuff. I soaked up the blood. I got on with life.
I was ambivalent.
When the time came for children, I stopped contraception and fell pregnant before my knickers even hit the floor (both times!) Suddenly my period was doing something way more constructive than soaking tampons and staining underwear. It was helping me grow two brand new humans!
I was overjoyed.
After both pregnancies and a stint of breastfeeding, my body announced its renewed fertility with the resumption of my monthly flow.
I was resigned.
Over the following years my period and I bumbled along together. However, I became more and more aware of the impact my menstrual products were having on the environment, the possible risks they posed to my physical health, as well as resenting just how much they cost month after month. After lots of research, I took the plunge and bought a menstrual cup. I was an immediate convert. I gave them to mortified friends begging them to see how easy they were to use and how much cash it would save them.
I was evangelical.
A couple of years ago, I saw a news article about women who made menstrual kits for girls in developing countries. Where there is a choice between feminine hygiene and food, the choice will always be food. This leaves girls to make whatever solutions they can just to stay in school. The best options are rags or paper. The worst are cornhusks, bark, or even corncobs and stones inserted internally to try and stop their flow. Many girls cannot even use these options and will simply stay at home sitting on a piece of cardboard for five days. I immediately looked up the organization Days for Girls and started sewing for them.
I was sad.
However, since I started sewing reusable pads for girls in Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands there has been more and more media coverage about period poverty right here in Aotearoa. Girls who stay home from school and university because they cannot afford pads or tampons. Women forced to literally 'go on the rag' each month. Girls getting 'the injection' because it’s cheaper than menstrual products.
I was indignant.
I’d been so worried about the poor girls overseas, I’d been blind to the massive amount of period poverty suffered by Kiwi women. Women being punished financially every month for having a healthy reproductive system. Bearing the cost of an event they have no control over. Often it is the most vulnerable of our women who are suffering the worst – the women forced to flee to the safety of refuges with nothing but the clothes on their back. It’s hard enough for these women to ask for safety and refuge. Can you imagine how humiliating it must be to ask for pads or tampons?
I was sad, angry, annoyed, frustrated and discouraged all at the same time.
What can one little person do? I’m just me. I do OK but I’m not wealthy. My heart is big but my wallet is not. What can I do? I came to the conclusion I cannot help all the women all the time. But I can help some of the women, some of the time, when I am able. Things I can do:
I am determined.
I am resolute.
Are you with me?
Since writing this blog post, I have managed to speak to Kimberli at MyCup NZ and she is delighted to have Christchurch Aunties as one of her community partners. So for every menstrual cup we are able to purchase, their community programme will donate an extra cup.
I had the privilege today of speaking about reusable period products to a support group of women at the Battered Women’s Trust (one of the Refuges the Christchurch Aunties regularly assists). All the ladies present were interested in the current trends of reusable products (cloth pads, period knickers and menstrual cups). They were astounded at how much a cup could save them, but every one balked at finding the initial outlay in purchasing one. I told them I’d talk to some ladies I know and see what we could get sorted.
If you can help, please send your contribution to the Christchurch Aunties bank account 38-9018-0726820-00 coded 'Cup', or drop any cash, checks, bank drafts, foreign exchange, gold, silver or precious stones to the drop off points and we'll ensure it's all cashed, collated and converted into cups.
In our Aunties work, we regularly meet amazing people who contribute to our cause and the wider community.