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May Newsletter - "Menstruating women and girls should be championed not stigmatised"

There are now only 5 days to go until Global Menstrual Health Day on the 28th May. This month has been a busy one for us at Dig Deep with the launch of our brand new Period Pride campaign. Period Pride has been launched with the aim of celebrating periods, shedding the stigmas surrounding menstruation and raising funds to give girls in Kenya the confidence they need to unlock their potential and thrive. So in honour of Period Pride, for this newsletter, I have asked Jennifer Moore, Menstruation researcher, MA International Development and soon to be PhD student, to share her thoughts on why she is passionate about Periods and the importance of Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) work.

"Menstruating women and girls should be championed not stigmatised"

They say that research is "me-search" and my interest in periods is definitely in part due to my experiences growing up. I had my first period at a pretty young age, I remember running to my mum and seeing the excitement on her face when she heard. The following few days she instructed me on everything from managing my PMS to explaining what it meant for my fertility to prescribing copious amounts of chocolate.

Unfortunately, from then on things became more confusing. I used tampons from quite an early age so I could swim but when I got back to school and one of my friends saw tampons instead of sanitary pads in my bag she proceeded to tease me, telling boys in my year group about them. Around a similar time, I remember it becoming commonplace for my classmates to dismiss justified emotions felt by girls saying "ooh you've got your period" which struck me as grossly unfair.

Beyond the classroom, I suffered from intense period pain. It felt like something was wrong. Surely, this much pain was indicating that my body wasn't functioning as it should.

Jen conducting a focus group at St Teresa's School, Ndanai, Kenya

Pictured above: Jen conducting a focus group at St Teresa's School Ndanai, Kenya

It's only in the past few years that I've begun to see my period in a wholly positive way. For me, it's a sign of my femininity and fertility, that my body is functioning as it should. This is in part due to discovering menstrual cups which helps my period pass by without me having to put much thought into managing it. As for the pain, women should be extremely proud of what they have to go through every month- sore boobs, cramps, bloating, back pain etc. It is a testament to our strength not our weakness, and I applaud every woman and girl who gets up and goes to school/work whilst feeling like they've been punched in the uterus.

But there are so many girls worldwide who don't have the resources that I do. It breaks my heart that women and girls feel frightened, ashamed, and unprepared when it comes to their period, a time when they come face to face with their womanhood in the truest sense of the phrase. The inability of women to manage their period with dignity and in private has huge ramifications for how they view their menstruating body and consequently their sense of self and mental health. At a larger level, in my opinion the way a society treats a menstruating woman (when she is physically performing her femininity) speaks volumes about that woman's place in society, giving us a glimpse into power structures and social norms. Focusing on supporting girls and dismantling stigma around this key time provides a unique opportunity to begin to change harmful attitudes towards women that are stopping them from reaching their potential.

Pictured above: Nelly carrying out a pilot MHM session from the syllabus designed by Jen and the Dig Deep team, Ndanai, Kenya.

Dig Deep's menstrual health programme not only provides support for individual girls so they can manage their periods comfortably and with dignity, but also helps to address these broader notions of shame and stigma that are severely impacting girl's mental health and sense of self. By including boys in half of the modules, Dig Deep's interactive sessions start to demystify menstruation through conveying correct physiological information, normalising sanitary products, and debunking myths around behavioural restrictions placed on menstruating women. The empowered adolescent girls who leave the sessions can be key agents of change within their communities and start to bring about real social change.

Menstruating women and girls should be championed not stigmatised and Dig Deep's work takes an important first step toward this goal.

How to show your support for Period Pride

Menstrual Hygiene day falls on the 28th May so during the month of May, we are aiming to raise £5000 which will allow us to train a total of 2000 girls. So far, because of the support of many wonderful people like you we have been able to raise an amazing £2562.50 which will provide essential menstruation training to 1025 girls.

This training will keep girls in school and learning so that they can earn more in the future to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

There is still time for you to show your support by purchasing an item from our Period Pride collection, Linking your loo with a female-friendly latrine or even hosting a Period Party. With your support, we will be able to reach our £5000 target and provide training to a further 975 girls.

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