For a cause to go far in making an impact and a difference, as well as successfully spreading awareness, you need dedicated activists who will use their platforms regularly in furthering important information about that specific cause. The way the world is going, everyone should be adding the title of ‘activist’ to their lives because it is only through activism will we see the change we desperately need. Everyone needs to come together; whether it is celebrities, social media influencers, reality tv stars, or just the common person with no fame to their name or no large numbers to boast of on social media. When they do come together, other people listen, get educated, and in turn, they add even more pressure on the people responsible for holding up progress and positive change. It was activists who put an end to racial discrimination. It was activism that led to women being allowed to vote. The opposite of activism is complacency; to allow things to happen without having a say, or any care for the consequences. When we willfully ignore situations that oppress a specific section of society, we often don’t realise that one day when we stand to lose something ourselves, no one will speak for us.
At GiveHer5, we work towards bridging the gender equality gap, especially with regards to education and job opportunities. We help promote menstrual awareness and provide women and girls across rural India with access to affordable, reusable and sanitary menstrual hygiene products. Our expansive network of corporates and NGO partners hold informative workshops and perform critical research to ensure that women have equal opportunity to attend school and work, thereby closing the education and income gaps caused by period poverty. We also have a section on our website called The Period Blog where we decipher and write about updates, information and news in the areas of menstruation, gender equality, period poverty and any other topics related to our cause.
If you want to learn more about menstruation and the issues women (and men) face, you should keep track of these activists who have plenty to say on their social media platforms, through campaigns, films, books and organisations.
Jen Lewis – Intending to normalise the whole process of menstruation, Jen Lewis decided to make beautiful pieces of art using her own menstrual blood. Societal views of menstruation were that it is dirty and too disgusting to talk about, so Lewis set out to challenge that perception. She uses the blood from her own menstrual cup and pours it into water, creating a sort of free-flowing movement of the liquid. Though she has faced some negative responses, there has also been a lot of encouragement and support for her works. At the very least, it creates room for discourse on why talking about period blood is often viewed as too personal and disgusting. Her work is called “Beauty In Blood”.
Lara Briden – A naturopathic doctor with a focus in women’s menstrual health, Lara lives in Sydney (Australia) working for the Sensible-Alternative Hormone clinic. She sees several women with issues like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), thyroid and severe PMS. She has written a book called Period Repair Manual: Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods that serves as a guide for women with mistaken beliefs on their period cycles and production of natural hormones. While there are a lot more discussions on menstruations, there is still not a lot of clarity on PMS, so this book offers information that empowers women and at the same time ends the taboos associated with menstruation. For these reasons, Lara has often been recognised for her substantial contributions as a menstrual activist.
Rupi Kaur – A poet and a spoken word performer, Rupi Kaur is a household name of sorts. She has written books like ‘Milk and Honey’, covering themes like menstruation, sexual abuse and feminism. Her Instagram page is full of excerpts of poetry as well as stunning artwork touching upon the issues previously mentioned. She became more recognised after a picture she posted on Instagram of her period stained pants was taken down by the social media platform. This caused an uproar that led to Instagram apologising for unnecessary censoring.
View this post on Instagram
#preach, @rupikaur_ 🙌🏻 Ungraceful is a society that lets girls with no access to sanitary solutions resort to dangerous alternatives like ash, husk, sand, or unsanitised cloth. What can be seen as ugly is allowing a generation of women to let their dreams go unfulfilled because of period poverty. Together, we can make a difference and change the narrative. With your help, we are one milestone closer to achieving gender equality. To know how you can #GiveHer5, visit www.giveher5.org Poetry Credit – @rupikaur_ • • • #periodpoverty #GH5 #rupikaur #periods #milkandhoney #menstrualhealth #igpoem #periodpositive #mhm #menstruation #menstrualhealthmatters #periodpositive #poem #poetry
Jennifer Weiss Wolf – Known for her work in the public space, Jennifer is both, a lawyer and in a senior role at a public policy organisation called Brennan Centre for Justice. As if that wasn’t a full plate, she is also a menstrual health advocate. She has written an insightful article on bleeding while homeless for the Huffington Post. She kickstarted one of the first petitions to abolish taxes on tampons in tandem with Cosmopolitan and change.org. It garnered 58,000 signatures at the time. Her platform highlights the struggles of women living in poverty face when it comes to menstrual hygiene.
Kiran Gandhi – Gandhi made the news for opting to run the London Marathon while on her period. Except she decided to run sans tampons or pads making it clear to those watching that there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to menstrual blood nor should one feel restricted in any way by bleeding. Kiran is a menstrual activist, graduated from Harvard Business School and also plays the drums. How cool is that? Her stage name is Madame Gandhi. She uses her platform to educate people that while bleeding without worry was something she had the luxury to choose to do, this is not the scenario for women all over the world – many of whom don’t even have access to menstrual hygiene products. These are the women who inspire Kiran Gandhi to be a menstrual activist.
Saleha Khan – Women from the Mumbai slum Saleha lived in, all followed a similar path that included leaving school, getting married at a young age, having kids early, and generally being housebound. This was not the case for Saleha who would attend menstrual health sessions that provided education on managing menstruation, how to use sanitary products, and how to dispose of it correctly. In a short span of time, she went from being an attendee to leading the sessions, educating about 30-40 girls at a time. This proved invaluable as privacy was limited in the slums and toilets were unhygienic. When her father struggled with finances and asked her to drop out, she was firm in her desire to continue her education even if it meant going to a place further away. Despite her parents’ concerns about her safety, she pulled through and graduated. She went on to college as a business and economics student. Saleha is also the first girl from her community to go abroad and has gained international fame and recognition for her work.
Aditi Sharma – Sharma grew up in Kathmandu in a progressive family. A trip back to a remote part of Nepal left her shocked as she learnt that the practice of Chhaupadi was very much ongoing despite the government banning this regressive tradition by calling it illegal. Chhaupadi is the act of forcing women to live in small cow sheds while on their period because menstruation is considered impure. This meant women were particularly vulnerable to things like hypothermia, asphyxiation, snake bites, and rape while being made to stay in such impossible conditions for those five days. Aditi started an NGO called Kalyani to educate people on the misconceptions associated with menstruation as well as to end the practice of Chaupadi in Surkhet, a rural part of Nepal. The NGO conducts workshops as well as goes door-to-door to teach families about the problems women face when they are banished while on their periods. Additionally, she teaches young girls ad women how to make their own menstrual products that are reusable and last for two years.
View this post on Instagram
Today Kalyani participated in the first ever #DignifiedMenstruationDay at Maiti Ghar Mandala organized by the Radha Poudel Foundation as part of the 16 days activism against gender based violence (GBV). Menstrual restrictions are a manifestation of GBV and menstruation with dignity is a human right. #periodpositive #MenstruationMatters #menstruation
There are several noteworthy women and even male activists working in this field. It is inspiring to see people of all ages and different nationalities so staunch in their beliefs and patiently using their names, influence and reach in many ways to solve a problem that really should never have been a problem in the first place. Thanks to social media and connectivity, more and more people are learning about issues that they weren’t aware of. People in privilege are learning to step outside their bubbles; governments are accepting that they should know better than to turn the other way, and all this is only possible due to the relentless work of activists.