We Need To Talk – Period

KindNecessities is a student-run not-for-profit with a dual focus in providing refugee women with female sanitary products as well as breaking down the taboo surrounding menstrual health. Here’s why talk isn’t cheap.

When I was about seven, I remember going on holidays with my family, finding my mum’s pads in our suitcase and, perplexed, I asked her why she brought nappies when there were no babies. Instead of explaining what periods were, that I would go through it as well and that they were a normal part of being a woman, she shushed me and hid them again. As women, society places the onus on us to conceal an integral part of our natural biology, and shames us when a crack of its reality is exposed. Even prior to writing this article, I visited several magazines for exemplars and inspiration, and after reading several (very general) articles, decided to conduct a more targeted search. Funnily enough, if you search “period” on the New Yorker website, what comes up is a cartoon titled “Things that Should Come with Trial Periods”, as well as articles on archaeology, horror movies and the FBI. Whilst all these are no doubt informative and delightful reads, it is disconcerting that a biological occurrence-turned-social issue which affects half the world’s population is ignored and deemed inappropriate to talk about.

But the question remains: why is something so natural still considered an issue? Not only is the existence of the taboo rather degrading in perpetuating the notion of women as ‘clean’ and ‘pure’ objects, but it also proves detrimental to girls who are afraid to seek help if something is wrong or if there are abnormalities in their menstrual cycle. This can lead to a late diagnosis (despite being previously treatable) of issues such as endometriosis. Further, taboos prevent us from talking about things that ultimately need to be talked about, and subsequently result in ignorance towards the existence of issues that truly matter. I believe this is the case for many of us, even in progressive environments such as the University of Sydney, regarding the menstrual health of refugee women. Whilst in Australia we are lucky enough to celebrate the lifting of the tampon tax and the recognition of these items as a “necessity”, the same cannot be said for the international sphere, where menstrual products, classed as “luxuries”, are only accessible using UN allowance intended for food and water. Consequently, millions of women and girls resort to using old rags, pieces of old mattresses, garbage and even moss as pads, placing them at high risk to illnesses and infections. We believe that women should not have to choose between providing their families with food and water, and accessing safe products and resources to combat their monthly menstruation. KindNecessities seeks to rectify this through our two-pronged approach – looking into and beyond the local context here in Australia, but also towards those forced to flee their homes due to conflict.

Over this past year, KindNecessities has recruited a new and young team of directors and volunteers, with a number of events and campaigns being continued to enable our mission. These include a school visit to Blacktown Girls High School, a second-hand stall at the Glebe Markets, and an online campaign promoting environmentally sustainable alternatives to disposable pads. In the new year, we’re looking forward to our first Youth Action Summit, which centres around the desire to connect passionate young people with avenues through which they can work collectively to create change. Whilst increasing political and social awareness in schools, universities, and workplaces is a fantastic sign, what often still remains unclear for young people, even to those with strong and passionate views, is how best to act on these beliefs. The Youth Action Summit will act as a conduit for engaged young people and established groups and movements, featuring a plethora of political groups, NGOs, not-for-profits, collectives and activist groups present, as well as speeches, panel and workshops.

As young people, we are often criticised for apathy, frivolity and ruining almost every industry – but we believe that our dynamism and progressiveness are integral in pushing forward society and its values. The intended focus of this article was supposed to be the experiences of USYD women within KindNecessities, but I truly think it extends broader than this; namely, to the broader experiences of women experiencing life at USYD, women in broader society and the engagement of the general public in a conversation that has been silent for too long. It is about understanding, empathising and creating a movement where women are supporting women, and males are better understanding the females in their lives. It is about realising the taboo that forces you to hide your pad on the way to the bathroom, or having someone snigger at a red stain; it is the same one that renders millions without the simple necessities needed that are not a luxury. That is why KindNecessities is so special to me, and I am so glad to be part of an organisation with values so close to my heart.

For three dollars, you can provide a woman with a safe period through the packs that we provide, which include reusable pads, liners, underwear, an information chart and cleaning products, all of which will last up to three years. If you have a spare three dollars and resonate with our cause, please – take the time to head over to our website and show your support. We’d love for you to join our family and stay updated on our events and initiatives through our Facebook and Instagram (@kindnecessities), and if you have any queries or are interested in partnering with us, please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@kindnecessities.org.

Whether it’s directly to us or just between your friends and family at uni, home or online, we urge you to get the conversation going, to start challenging those norms and help break down the harmful taboos that surround menstrual health – for you, the women that immediately surround you and for women globally.

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