The period means a million things. As I try to uncover some of its meanings I found myself asking my female friends and family – what do periods mean to you? The answers I received were as diverse and emotive as you might expect:
I hear a tone of joy as my younger sister whispers “not preggo” through a wily smile. I hear a tone of cynicism as an old friend notes that she concentrates on not haemorrhaging to death. Another’s voice is full of confidence she explains how the older she gets, the more openly she talks about her periods.
There is annoyance in another’s voice when she talks of how the pain affects her and her capabilities. There is also a sadness in the voice of my mother as she talks of the sorrow of having a period when desperately trying to conceive.
These are the stories from my friends and family – but what if we heard the experiences from all the women around the world? From women being too ashamed to walk down the shopping aisle tampons in hand, to women who are unable to access sanitary products at all, there’s huge injustice within this shared experience of menstruation.
There are some amazing people who are fighting for period justice. They’re campaigning to end tax on sanitary products, they’re finding innovative ways to make women feel more confident about their periods, and they’re sourcing more ethical sanitary products. People are beginning to talk about periods, and we know that this conversation around sanitary care needs to happen.
That’s why The House of St Barnabas and The Social Change Agency are hosting Justice.Period on the 14th June. We want to start normalising the discussion around periods by bringing together some of the amazing women who are at the forefront of this conversation.
We’ll be hearing from Laura Coryton, who started the campaign to end the Tampon tax, Tara Chandry who is the CEO of FLO, the sassy business aimed at offering organic feminine hygiene care. We’ll also be speaking to Martha Silcott, founder of the amazing biodegradable bags for tampons and Amika George, who started the #FreePeriod campaign to supply free sanitary products for girls on free school meals. The event will be chaired by Esther Foreman from The Social Change Agency and trustee of the House of St Barnabas.
We need to explore the future of period justice, and it begins with these sanitary conversations. To book your free place for the event, click here.
So what needs to change?
NGOs need to demonstrate that they can be vehicles for delivering effective campaigning. And given the size and weight of the challenges, that requires NGOs, individually and as a sector, to take the time to reflect on current practice, and address head on some difficult questions. We’re on the knife edge of two different political landscapes. As everything gets re-set post election, it’s important for the NGO sector to take a step back and really interrogate their campaigning practices.
This is why we’re writing a blog series exploring the effectiveness of campaigning and the future of campaigning in an uncertain reality.
We’ll be forecasting the trajectory of campaigning if we carry on unchanged, we’ll be postulating what different approaches would look like, and we’ll be analysing the current shortfalls that have stopped us from adapting.
We have some thoughts on all of these things that we want to share, to encourage reflection and kick off conversations about what future campaigning should look like and what needs to change to get there.
Keep an eye out on our blog posts and for the odd round table here and there. (FYI, we are hosting one for the Campaign Network, with CharityComms on 4th July, and we are looking to host a Civil Society Futures Conversation soon. Contact us at email@example.com for more details).
By Esther Foreman, CEO of The Social Change Agency and Jim Coe, Senior Associate, The Social Change Agency and Founder of The Advocacy Iceberg Podcast
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