Developing a conversation on Periods, Period poverty and Sanitary Products

Starting a conversation - developing opportunities

On 20th August we held a first conversation on Periods. Not solely about period poverty, yet we know this has been making the headlines over the last few years. But on periods more generally.

Our facilitators on the day we're a new organisation, 'Free Flow Hull' (read about them in the link above), we heard how they developed a programme and workshops in Hull where they have provides spaces for women to talk openly about periods, to share experiences, reflect on some of the taboos and power dynamics of language associated with periods.

As part of the day we experiences the workshop that they currently would do with groups of adults, including the taboos, limitations of current sanitary products available and what the alternatives are, and how they are used.

Questions were raised like: 'Why does the word 'period' need to be avoided, and colloquial terms used instead? (like 'aunt flow visiting, 'on the blob' or 'time of the month')

And where these phrases come from, and why they exist?

Steph and Rob shared stories from the workshops they lead, of how women have felt having talked about periods, and been able to make more positive choices regarding the way in which they manage their periods, through using different sanitary products that have less chemicals, and are cheaper and better for the environment in the long run.

After lunch the group discussed some of the challenges and difficulties there are when having conversations about periods, including feeling queasy. Cultural factors and social factors were discussed, and talk was that many difficult issues are barely raised in churches (money, relationships etc) and periods is well down that list. Questions were posed about young people and specifically talking about periods in Sex education, and how girls are often taken to one side to talk about periods, and boys can be excluded from this knowledge. We weren't sure if this still happens...

Throughout the day the attendees were given time to reflect on what they were learning, and consider how they might develop responses in their local context. A broad range was represented, urban and rural church, national or regional organisation, diocese and deanery responsibility, though sadly no men attended, outside of the CTD team, I think this is telling. Actually, I think this is disgraceful. But culture shift will take time. Men, we can do better- cant we?

Further questions were posed in regard to the responses such as :

  1. How might a response preserve human dignity
  2. How might God be revealed in the response?
  3. How might community gifts be developed?
  4. How might the response tackle injustice?

And a number of responses and ideas during the day already captured the essence of these, and each person left with further questions and ideas about this issue and to think about how they personally, how they in their organisation might develop a response further.

It goes without saying that these conversations and ideas are at an early stage, though a number of the group had already began developing local responses, and the team at Communities together Durham can support where they can in helping local responses further.

We are grateful to Free Flow Hull for their input into the day, for their approachable nature, passion and determination to help women (and men) to think about periods in a more positive way, a strength not a weakness, and to make more informed choices in regard to sanitary products. If you would like to hear more about Free Flow Hull, they can be contacted via their website which is here

Two months on, we are encouaraged by the engagement of you on this! We are hearing stories of how you are taking action in your communities, schools and churches to raise awareness, education and develop responses to this.