Tag Archives: menstruation

Activists and Governments Tackle Period Poverty

We support a ceasefire in Palestine

A large demonstration with signs including Bans off Our Bodies, Robes Gone Rogue, and We Need to Talk About the Body in the Womb

Laurie and Debbie say:

Laurie discovered For Women by Women, Period when Ali Velshi talked about the organization on his show. Their mission is

to provide access to menstrual products for those affected by period poverty through distribution, education, and advocacy for menstrual equity.

… Beyond the provision of hygiene products to those in need, our mission extends to fostering a safe space for open conversations about periods and ensuring improved education on menstruation for all age groups. 

The group is three years old, and was founded by Carrington Baker, a student at St. John’s University. They provide tampons and other period products to menstruators who need them; there is a link on their site to email them if you need these products.  The undated newsletter on their site says they have distributed over 165,000 products. Clearly, this small group of people is having an outsized impact, enough to attract attention on Velshi’s national show.

Across the Atlantic, in the Catalonia region of Spain, the regional government is doing something similar on a substantially larger scale, and focusing on reusable products.

Women can spend €2,500 on sanitary products in their lifetime but opting for reusable products will reduce that cost to about €145, authorities say.

The initiative began on Monday (March 4) in the north-eastern region and will benefit about 2.5 million people, who will be able to find the products at more than 3,300 pharmacies.

The measure also aims to reduce the more than 9,000 tonnes of waste generated each year in Catalonia by used tampons and sanitary pads.

This project in Catalonia follows on a 2022 Spanish law “stipulating that menstrual products should be distributed for free at schools, prisons, women’s healthcare facilities and other public institutions.”

Scotland also gives out free menstrual products, though the practice doesn’t make particular use of reusables.

At a time when the right-wing war on women is making significant strides in the United States and around the world, menstruation is not only a potential, but a likely, place for the anti-women forces to focus. As Black scholar and expert Dr. Michele Goodwin points out, “The idea [of making post-sex pregnancy prevention drugs illegal] is that a pregnancy is taking place immediately after sex. And if that pregnancy isn’t sustained, well, then something must have happened. She must have done something and we need to investigate.

Providing free menstrual products won’t stop the right wing war. What it will do and does do is put the real needs of real human menstruators front and center, and reminds us all that human needs can be met, and human pain can be addressed … and we can do this for each other. If you are able, please consider donating to By Women For Women. Period.


Thanks to Mona Eltahawy at Feminist Giant for the pointer to the Catalan news.

Debbie has deleted her Twitter account. Follow her on Mastodon.

Follow Laurie’s Pandemic Shadows photos on Instagram.





Menstrual Stains: Transgressive Around the World

Kenyan senator Gloria Orwoba in a white suit and green blouse, with a very visible red stain at her crotch, and a briefcase slung over one arm

Laurie and Debbie say:

Carolyn Kimeu’s article in The Guardian, “Kenyan senator targeted by online threats after period poverty protest,” tells a story we might like to make out as a third-world cautionary tale. Senator Gloria Orwoba came to a Kenyan senate meeting wearing white pants with a fake menstrual stain very clearly visible at the crotch. After about half the meeting, she was asked to leave, and she has been “targeted by severe cyberbullying and threats of sexual violence” since that time.

Kenya has, of course, its own specific issues regarding menstruation. Menstrual products are not taxed, but they are too expensive for “more than half” of the women and girls in the country, and a 2017 law to make them free has been thwarted by insufficient budgets and corruption.

In 2019, a 14-year-old girl killed herself after a teacher reportedly shamed her when she stained her uniform on her first period. Stigma pushes many girls to skip school when menstruating.

So Senator Orwoba’s action is extremely relevant to her constituents.

Despite the Kenyan specifics, this is a global issue. It’s hard to imagine any country where a woman lawmaker could show up dressed like Senator Orwoba and not face severe consequences. Menstruation may be somewhat more acceptable to talk about than it used to be (at least in the U.S. and Europe). In the United States, the country we know best, showing it is completely out of the question. Women are both blamed and shamed a visible drop of blood shows anywhere around their crotch. In a country where some states forbid women legislators from wearing short sleeves, it’s far too easy to imagine what would happen to women intentionally wearing stained pants. Cyberbullying and online threats would be inevitable. Similar reactions are predictable in most of the world.

We salute Senator Orwoba for both her creativity and her courage. The article says she didn’t expect this incident to reach beyond the senate, but we hazard a guess that she knew exactly what she was doing, and how far it would travel (even if she underestimated the viciousness of the online response).

Menstrual products should not only be tax-free in the United States (a case where we are less enlightened than Kenya), and free to every woman and girl in the world who needs them. As activists who have devoted a great deal of work to making the invisible visible, we applaud the senator for such a stunningly visual action. We stand by her as she …

stands by her stunt, saying that to bring change, “it is important to dare to be shameless”. But being on the frontline of the backlash, she said, showed her that there is a lot more to be done to eradicate stigma.

“The biggest impact is that we got men talking about periods – and that breaks cultural barriers to some level,” she said. “Period shaming starts with the man and the boy, because they have been brought up to believe that if a woman happens to have a stain, it’s an appropriate response to laugh at, or castigate her – and then the woman has been taught that they need to go into hiding. That’s the unlearning that we need to do.”


Debbie is no longer active on Twitter. Follow her on Mastodon.

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