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It's Time to Talk About Taboo
“It’s that time of month again….”
We all know what this statement is referring to, even if we don’t want to say it. But it’s time to challenge the taboo of talking about menstruation – that’s the message from Menstrual Hygiene Day, which aims to raise awareness and inspire change surrounding the challenges menstruating individuals face daily around the world, and to open discussion around the traditionally taboo topic.
An annual event held around the world, Menstrual Hygiene day took place on campus on Monday, May 28 with the theme of “No More Limits.” The day’s events were organized by students from the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Applied Health Sciences and were sponsored by several departments interested in gender equality and social change: The Water Institute, HeForShe IMPACT and the Applied Health Sciences Endowment Fund.
“It’s quite significant because it is an internationally recognized event and it serves to address not only the local issues around the stigma about speaking about menstruation but also the international issues, the water sanitation issues,” said Applied Health Studies student and event organizer Fiqir Mequanent Worku.
Through two interactive sessions, a museum exhibit and a panel discussion, the event raised awareness about the lack of menstrual hygiene knowledge and the sanitation crisis in developing countries.
The museum exhibit included art pieces from University of Waterloo’s Fine Arts students that challenge the stigma around menstruation and work to connect with one another through shared experiences.
Fine Arts student Olivia Carvalho created an installation featuring stories from the books she created, “Period” and “Period.2” about women getting their first periods. Carvalho invited viewers to write a message or response to the project to be posted on the wall. She received an overwhelming amount of responses where people voluntarily shared their own stories.
“It was really interesting because some stories were like, ‘I thought I was dying.’ It’s funny and sad at the same time that this is a common experience for a lot of women because it comes from the fact that [mensuration is] not really talked about in families or in school, so you can’t really talk about it anywhere,” said Worku.
The panel discussion featured a representative from The Sexual Health Options Resources and Education Centre (SHORE), Stacey Jacobs; local Days for Girls chapter organizer Brenda Porter; and the CEO of Divacup, Carinne Chambers-Saini. The panelists spoke about the sanitation crisis in third-world countries and their own personal experiences advocating for menstrual hygiene internationally.
Porter shared a story about when her donation to a school in a developing country of 25 re-usable menstruation kits got rejected because they did not feel right about handing them out if not all the girls could receive them. Porter described that this was a humbling experience for her and it demonstrated the lack of tools to keep up with menstrual hygiene in developing countries.
Before the western world can start helping developing countries, we need to take a step back and correct the astonishing lack of menstrual health knowledge and awareness in our own backyard, Worku said.
“Menstrual Hygiene Day was so appealing for the women involved because it provided a forum to learn and actually talk about menstruation without feeling ashamed of asking ‘stupid’ questions,” said Worku. “The whole point of the event is to foster an environment where you’re comfortable being uncomfortable, essentially.”
Don’t be afraid to join the conversation and help pave the way to world in which menstrual hygiene management has no limits!
“There are people within your network that don’t know enough about the reproductive body,” Worku said. “Knowledge is power and being an ally and engaging in the topic is really important.”
If you’re interested in supporting this worthy cause, do your part by facilitating an environment where it’s okay to talk about menstruation, donate tampons or pads to the Feds Students Food Bank, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how to be a volunteer for Menstrual Hygiene Day 2019!
For more information on menstrual hygiene management, check out The Sexual Health Options Resources and Education Centre (SHORE), Days for Girls and Divacup.