Menstruating. Periods. That time of the month. The Curse. Your Aunty Flow. Having the painter and decorator in. The Blob. On the rag and my personal favourite…Shark week. Whatever you call it I’ve yet to meet one person who absolutely loves bleeding from their vagina each month.
My periods have always sucked big time. I get exhaustion, bloating, spotty teenage skin and headaches about 3 days before my period actually arrives and then when it hits, it hits hard! I grew up in a house with my mum, dad and two sisters so there was a lot of menstruating happening. Although I come from a working-class background in an area affected greatly by poverty, I was lucky enough that we could afford whatever sanitary products my sisters and I needed.
It had never occurred to me that the arrival of my period and my sister’s periods meant that my parents had to factor these monthly events into their budget. That as each one of us reached puberty there was less money to live off of each month. Money was always tight in our house when I was growing up but each month my monster heavy periods were taken care of. I never missed school and my life didn’t stop. It never occurred to me that there were girls sitting right next to me in class who had just one sanitary product to last them the whole day. Or even worse, there were girls off sick from school because they couldn’t afford any sanitary products or even painkillers to help with their cramps.
Teachers up and down the country have been voicing their concerns over period poverty for years and finally we have reached a point that their cries for help can no longer be ignored. Some school district’s teachers have been buying sanitary products out of their own pockets for students who have been forced to come to school with only one saturated sanitary towel to last them the whole day. Some children can’t even afford one sanitary product and have been forced to stuff their underwear full of toilet paper in the hopes it will stem the flow for long enough until they can make it home. Reports from school girls in Leeds said that many of them had resorted to stapling socks to their underwear just to make it to class because their attendance had become so low that they were getting into trouble.
Period poverty is now something we cannot in good conscious ignore. There are a few simple things we can do right now to help make a difference.
Support your local food bank. This is one of the most important things you can do! Even if you just pop one packet of sanitary pads or tampons in as little or as often as you can, you WILL be making a real difference to someone’s life. Don’t feel like you can only donate if you are donating a lot. Little and often as much as you can, it all helps.
Get involved in making Period Packs with your favourite Punkies! Punky Moms is hosting Period Packing Parties worldwide through their Punky chapters. Check to see if there is a local event happening to you.
If you can’t attend one of our events, you can definitely do this on your own or with a group of friends nearby. It’s a perfect way to give back and socialize with your favorite people.
Period packs should include –
- A mixture of products – Variety is important, just like we all use different things at different times it’s important to offer the same in our period packs so make sure you include some night-time pads for heavy flow, medium pads and tampons.
- Wet wipes – preferably fragrance free, sensitive ones. Example here. Being fresh, clean and kind to your vagina is not a luxury but a basic right everyone should have.
- Something sweet. A little bit of chocolate or something sweet to eat because who doesn’t love a little boost when our periods are kicking our buts?
You can put all of these in little bags (we suggest paper candy bags for biodegradable purposes) and drop them at your local shelter, domestic violence center, refuge, etc. – The Red Box Project has partnered with many of our Chapters in the UK – please visit their site if you live in the UK and want to get involved locally.
For further reading, we suggest Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand on Menstrual Equality by Jennifer Weiss-Wolf. The first book to explore menstruation in the current cultural and political landscape and to investigate the new wave of period activism taking the world by storm.
We are hoping that Punky Moms being involved in this cause is just the beginning. We want period poverty to be a thing of the past. Period.
Lou Clave is the Director of Ruby Rebellion CIC. Angry feminist, artist & mature student. Fat positive, tattooed wife & mama. You can read her blog at Mama Lou Bones.