The Unexpected Community Leaders Fighting Period Poverty

August 8, 2019


How an author, an entrepreneur and an artist are pushing for a more progressive menstrual agenda

Over the past few years, the issue of Period Poverty has crept into the peripheries of public consciousness. And, as people began to learn of its widespread nature, they became outraged at the depth of its injustice.

Period Poverty is the lack of access to menstrual products. Despite activists demanding policy reform to solve this crisis, decision makers failed to implement progressive menstrual policies. So in response, Purpose along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, launched a campaign called Project Period.

Project Period was designed to amplify public awareness of Period Poverty both in the UK and globally, so that decision makers could no longer turn a blind eye to the problem. 

It did so by creating an army of non-traditional influencers to speak out on the issue. This activated public consciousness in new audiences, and created a 360 degree source of pressure on decision makers to act.

Introducing a few of the star players on our Period Poverty Champions Team:

The Politician: Caroline Russell 

Woman with polling box in campaign

Green Party of England and Wales politician, Caroline became interested in periods through exploring the environmental impact of menstrual products. After learning about period poverty, she became a firm advocate for ending it.

“I started looking at single-use plastic unflushables like period products, wet wipes, and disposable nappies as Chair of the London Assembly Environment Committee.  Apart from the terrible impact these plastic items have on rivers and waterways, it became clear that single use period products, containing up to 90% plastic, are expensive and for many people reusable options like period underwear and menstrual cups are much more affordable, which was something we discussed on a global level at Our Period of Change, on Menstrual Health Day 2019.”

The Entrepreneur: Bayo Adelaja 

Woman with lightbulbs on frame in campaignFounder of Crowdfunding company Do it Now Now, Bayo works predominantly with women of colour to design programs that will build a strong, healthy, scalable and impactful businesses. She now uses her platform to raise awareness about period poverty.

“Last year, we had the extraordinary opportunity to work with the fantastic team at Purpose and Project Period, the result of which was the origination of Period Poverty Week. It was a week of events and a surrounding 6-week social media campaign that engaged with thousands of people over that period. Our goal was to ensure a historically disenfranchised group, women of colour, particularly women of Afro-Caribbean descent could engage in the topic and begin to see themselves as powerful enough to become a part of the solution. Since then we have done a number of other things to keep the conversation going within our target community and have since made activists of a number of women. There’s more to do and there are many more women willing to roll their sleeves up and get to work on eradicating global period poverty than ever before. Exciting times ahead indeed.”

Dr Anita Mitra: The Author  

Woman posing in sweatshirt for campaign

Dr Anita aka the Gynae Geek, runs social media pages and has written books all about gynecological health.  Over the past year, Dr Anita has also used her platform to discuss some of the social issues relating to lack of access to menstrual products.

“As a gynaecologist, my life is one big ‘period chat’, and I wrote a book called ‘The Gynae Geek; your no nonsense guide to down there healthcare’ to educate and break the taboo when it comes to talk about periods. And whilst it’s great to see that conversation opening up, I’m always amazed at how many people don’t realise that period poverty is ‘a thing’! When I explain it to them, they’re often just as outraged as I am, so I love spreading the word to try and raise the awareness that we desperately need to affect change in the UK as well as globally. That’s why I particularly loved the Period Pop Up Shop that I helped to run with Project Period to get people thinking about period poverty for people around the world. We had such an incredible number of people coming through the doors, of all genders, who wanted to hear more and get involved with sharing our message far and wide.”

Hani Dresner: The Artist 

Woman with art paintbrush in campaign

Hani is a feminist artist. She uses art to explore topics such body positivity and sexuality.  Upon learning about the extent to which period poverty persists today, she has used her art to deconstruct taboos surrounding menstruation, bring light to the issue of period poverty.

“I first became aware of period poverty during university, as my student union began to campaign for access to free sanitary products. However, it wasn’t until I was invited to sell at the Project Period Pop Up Shop in 2018, and was introduced to Juliana’s Project, that I became aware of the enormity of the problem.

Since this event, I have continued to commit to donating a portion of each of my sales to various charities surrounding period poverty and sexual health around the world. As well as running fundraising events, like the Love Thy Labia Workshop during Menstrual Health Week.

As sex and body-positive business, I feel it is important not to take our relative freedom and privilege in the UK for granted, and for the end goal to always be the eradication of period poverty on a global scale.”

Holly Bantleman: The Activist

Woman with rally campaign activist sign

Holly founded Raise The Roof, Kenya, where she worked on the ground solving problems regarding access to menstrual products. 

“I first became involved in menstrual health and period poverty, working in rural villages in Kenya. I was working alongside teachers in a vocational training school, when a significant difference in attendance was noticed between the male and female students. Looking into it further, it became apparent that this was as a result of not having access to or being able to afford menstrual products. I began working with women’s groups in the community to design a solution that was then distributed to 45,000+ women and girls in the region. It became clear that this wasn’t something being spoken about, and a global movement to address this for people everywhere was needed”

This team of atypical activists includes so many more people working on this issue! Academics, social media influencers, and fashion designers to name a few have joined together to fight for a more equitable world… and it’s been working.

Earlier this year, the UK government announced it would provide menstrual products to all school girls. It’s a testament to the broader period poverty movement, including Amika George and her campaign Free Periods, who have been fighting to protect young people in schools from period poverty.

However, the fight isn’t over yet. Around the world, people continue to suffer from lack of access to period products. Project Period will continue to bring together diverse actors to demand action. 

Emma Simpson Operations Associate
Aaron Parr Senior Campaigner
Tate Soller Campaigner
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