It may make you squirm, but it really shouldn’t. Menstruation is as normal as the change in seasons. What should make you squirm is that ‘we’ – as a Western society – have allowed shame and stigma to occur around periods for over 100 years. This has resulted in period poverty and something that has driven the current government to provide free menstrual products to young people in schools from June this year.
So, what is period poverty? This is best explained by examples of how period poverty affects women, for example:
- Having to take time off work because you can’t afford menstrual items – in turn, feeling embarrassed and ashamed about this.
- Skipping school and avoiding sports because you can’t afford menstrual items – in turn, feeling embarrassed and ashamed about this.
- Having to use rags if a period doesn’t align with your parents pay day – in turn, feeling embarrassed and ashamed about this (both teenager and parent).
Ultimately, period poverty is when someone cannot afford menstrual items, because of cost. Worryingly, period poverty can also extend to health problems which are caused by using unhygienic items. This simply intensifies the shame and embarrassment.
A recent Youth19 survey of 7700 rangitahi, stated that one in 12 students stay home during their periods because they can’t afford period products. As with many poverty statistics, Māori and Pacific students are disproportionately affected by period poverty.
Helping to curb period poverty is Kiwi company AWWA who generously donated a set of period pants, drawstring bag and education guide to all of our Year 7 & 8 kōhine. Year 8 Navigator, Shardae Grenfell, knows the team at AWWA and asked if they’d be interested in supporting our Tikipunga High School students,
“Our Year 7s and 8s work together a lot, especially during their Health/Puberty classes at Tiki High, and since they’re at the age where they’ll be beginning their periods, I wanted to help them to normalise this phase and feel more empowerment over it.” said Shardae.
AWWA Co-founder, Kylie Matthews says that they have made a commitment to donate 5% of all their products produced, because the believe in providing a positive period experience for everyone,
“AWWA is committed to reducing the inequalities experienced by those who can not access period products month to month. No person should miss out on education or work due to having their period, which is why donating underwear was part of our ethos from inception. AWWA is about caring for you, and caring for the planet. Providing a sustainable reusable option for managing your ikura is going to have a positive impact for generations to come, and we are so excited to be part of the change.” said Kylie.
Naturally, the reactions from the kōhine, when presented with the AWWA gift set, was a bit of embarrassment and shyness. But, there has also been lots of korero about it within their classroom and at home, with their whānau. And this is what is needed – positive discussion and education of this very commonplace occurrence. Menstruation, a sign of good health. We can all play a part in helping to normalise and celebrate it, in order to support and empower young women.
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