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Y o u r

G N I D E E L B

e e FrE TO GUID

S D O I R E P


TALKING periodS Everyone should have the right to learn about how their body works. No matter what gender you are, everyone should learn about periods and why people should have access to period products. This pack wants to fight the silence and shame around periods by getting girls AND boys involved. Stigma (noun): the negative attitudes and actions towards someone or something based on social categories. The widespread idea that menstruation is ‘gross’ is period stigma, and it is maintained through cultural taboos, lack of education, period poverty, discrimination and silence.

Periods are not

PERIODS ARE

A sickness

A stage in the menstrual cycle

Just ‘that time of the month’

Something that affects people across the gender spectrum

Disgusting

Bodily fluids and tissue

A woman’s private matter

A natural function that many people are talking about

An embarassment

...including us


‘That time of the month’, ‘on the rag’... as a society we have created THOUSANDS of slang expressions. This comes from years of attaching stigma to periods. These nicknames separate us from our bodies and ultimately add to the shame surrounding menstruation.

Just say PERIOD, period. Period poverty is such a huge challenge because there is little conversation around it. It’s perceived as a girl’s issue. Monica Nyiraguhabwa Girl Up Initiative Uganda

Not talking about periods has a huge effect on women and their health. It means medical conditions go undiagnosed, important scientific research is neglected, and social policies don’t support people who menstruate as much as they should. There are so many reasons why being more open about menstruation will improve conditions for people now and in the future.

In this booklet, you’ll find out how, when and why periods happen; the types of period products available; and facts about period poverty in Scotland and Uganda. There are also activities to reflect on what you’ve learned, and resources on where to get help.

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MENSTRUATION a stage in the menstrual cycle, where someone experiences bleeding through the vagina. 2 key stages of the cycle are:

A period is

1

Ovulation: your body releases an egg every month, which moves through the fallopian tube towards the uterus (womb).

2

Menstruation: a lining forms inside the uterus to make the egg comfortable. It prepares for fertilisation by a male sperm cell, but if the sperm doesn’t arrive, the uterine lining breaks up and is expelled through the vagina – this lining is your period! It happens roughly every 28 days, but cycles can be anywhere from 21 to 40 days long. A person’s period (the menstruation stage) can be 3 to 8 days long.

SIDE EFFECTS Periods have a number of side effects. These symptoms may include bloating, stomach cramps, headaches, lower back or breast pain, as well as mental symptoms like tiredness,low mood, or frustration. You might have these mental and physical symptoms about a week before your period starts. This is called pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS).

Uterus Fallopian tube

Vagina Ovary

W W W W W W W W W W W


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Periods play a role in everyone’s life, whether you get them or not. If you don’t menstruate, it’s important to understand it anyway so you can empathise with the experiences of others.

DEALING WITH periods Periods can be difficult and messy. But as time goes on, you’ll become a pro at dealing with them. Some tips that may help if you are struggling include: • For cramps: use a hot water bottle to ease the pain on your stomach or lower back. • Stay hydrated: make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. • Get fruit and veg into your diet: this will help with uncomfortable period bloating. • Exercise: light exercise like walking or yoga will ease cramps and may improve WHAT your mood. WHEN

AT THE STArT For the first few years, you’ll probably find that your period is pretty irregular. There may be times where they’re further apart, or where they’re particularly light or heavy. This should become regular within 2 years of starting your period. This is another reason why it’s important to talk about periods – so you know if yours has become unusual. Finding out what is ‘normal’ will come from talking with others about your experiences. If you find your period to be more painful than how others find it, or if your period does not become regular, you should seek advice from an adult or doctor. If you are concerned in any way, make sure to talk about it.

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period products

If you’re starting your period, explore different options to find what works best for you. Remember to follow the instructions on any product packaging.

PADS

Most people use pads at first – they’re not intrusive and it’s easy to know when to change them.

You stick disposable sanitary pads to the crotch of pants, with the cotton facing up to absorb blood. Some have wings to provide extra protection to help them stay in place. You can also buy or make reusable fabric pads. Pads come in different absorbencies – thin (panty liners), regular, or thick (‘maxi’ or ‘super’). They should be changed every 4-8 hours, to prevent build-up of bacteria and odours. Disposable pads and their wrapping should be binned once used, as flushing them down the toilet could cause blockages. Period underwear works much like pads. They look and feel like normal underwear, but with extra layers in the crotch to hold blood without leaking.

PANTS

They are available in a range of absorbencies and shapes and one pair should last all day, but they may need to be changed more often with a heavy flow. You’ll need several pairs to easily rotate washing and wearing them, but pants are an eco-friendly alternative to pads, as one pair can last several years and can be washed and reworn like normal pants.


Some girls will bleed more heavily than others. Most will have light days and heavy ones. Many will use different products throughout their period.

TAMPONS

Many girls find tampons to be more convenient than pads, especially when playing sports or swimming.

A tampon acts as a cotton plug to absorb menstrual fluid. It has a string for easy removal, and some have removable applicators for guidance into the vagina. Different absorbencies are available, but all tampons should be changed every 4-8 hours. Leaving one in for too long or when not menstruating can increase risk of toxic shock syndrome – a rare but serious infection. Tampons shouldn’t be uncomfortable, and most people won’t be able to feel a tampon once it’s in. If it is painful, talk to a doctor to find out why. Tampons are disposable, so they need to be binned once used. In public, most toilet cubicles should have sanitary bins.

CUPS

Like a tampon, a menstrual cup is inserted in to the vagina, but it holds the blood, rather than absorbing it.

It can take some practice feeling comfortable with it, but most people can’t feel it once it’s in. To insert, the cup is folded and slid into the vagina, where it unfolds to create a seal. Most cups are reusable (made from silicone, soft plastic or rubber) and can last up to 25 years. They can be emptied after 8-12 hours, washed out and used again, making them a great eco-friendly option.


On average, women spend £10.24 a month on period products, adding up to almost £5000 over a lifetime. However, this figure doesn’t include other purchases related to periods, such as pain medication or new underwear.

COSTS

Pads and tampons can cost up to £3/pack, and you may need products of several different absorbencies during your period, meaning several different packs. Pants and cups cost around £20, and will last for years. But, it’s a bigger up-front cost so you’ll need to have more money saved, which may not be the case if you’re experiencing period poverty.

PERIOD period POVERTY povertY

As you can tell, periods are costly and many cannot afford to manage them. This makes it even more important for people to feel safe talking about menstruation.

Period poverty is the lack of access to period products (usually due to financial constraints). Someone in period poverty might also lack access to toilets, washing facilities, and sufficient menstrual education. Worldwide, around 500 million girls and women lack access to adequate facilities to manage their period. In the UK, 1 in 10 girls are affected by period poverty. In Scotland, this is closer to 1 in 4. The COVID-19 pandemic has made issues worse. Financial uncertainties and public facility closures means people have had to prioritise other essential items over period products. Period dignity is the solution to period poverty. Dignity means affordable and easy access to everything needed to manage a period – products and private washing facilities.


Period poverty can affect many areas of a person’s life:

1

2

3

Education

PHYSICAL health

mental health

You may miss school if you can’t manage your period. This could impact your learning long-term.

Being forced to use unhygienic products or products for longer than recommended could put your health at risk.

You may feel shame due to stigma surrounding periods and period poverty.

It might cause you to leave education early, which could reduce your opportunities in life.

!!

You may also not be able to afford pain relief medication to help with cramps.

If someone does not have access to the necessary period products, they might use washable items like facecloths or socks, or disposable ones like toilet roll, napkins taken from public places, or even newspaper.

Imagine having to find other ways to manage your period without proper products – you might find it very dehumanising.

Hey Girls is a Scottish social enterprise company that is combatting period poverty across the UK through education and protection. Producing a variety of period products, all profits go towards helping women and girls – when you buy a Hey Girls product, the same is given to someone in need.

[There] is no shame in period poverty. It’s more about the discomfort of other people talking about it. Celia Hodson Founder • Hey Girls


periods IN

uganda

Managing periods for schoolgirls in Uganda can be challenging. Period products are expensive, pain medication is not always available and not all schools have adequate private toilet facilities. As a result many girls drop out of education as they get older. Period poverty in Uganda affects everyone. When women and girls are dealing with their periods, this can impact the whole family financially. Girls might use rags, cotton wool, tissue, toilet paper or even banana leaves because pads are expensive. However, several organisations, like Days for Girls, are teaching adults, girls, AND boys a skill: to sew reusable pads. Kabushara, a 14 year old student from Gombe Kayunga Primary School, learnt how to make reusable pads with PHAU’s help, so now she can make as many as she needs.

Case Study

Kabushara has brothers and doesn’t like talking about periods with them. But, she knows that it’s important because boys might marry women when they’re older, so they should learn about menstruation too. In the past, men didn’t talk about it, it was a private woman’s topic. Now they are more open to help their daughters and mothers. Katende Lucent • Days for Girls

Organisations fighting period poverty include Girl Up Initiative Uganda, Days for Girls, AFRIpads, Public Health Ambassadors Uganda (PHAU) and WoMena Uganda. Along with teaching people to make pads, they also provide support and menstrual health education.


Activities activities QUIZ 1. What is the average number of days in one menstrual cycle? a) 8 days b) 16 days c) 28 days d) 36 days

2. On average, how much will a person spend on period products in their lifetime? 3. What does PMS stand for? 4. Decode these scrambled words: TAGISM

NOITAVOUL

TERANSMUTE

MANOPT

5. Name the 4 types of period products. Which are the most eco-friendly?

TALKING periodS in practice With another person and one at a time, talk about your experiences with periods, without laughing or smiling from embarassment. If you struggle, it just means you need to practise! OR

Talk to someone about periods generally. If you don’t know something, ask questions and have a conversation.

BOYS, LISTEN UP! Girls shouldn’t learn about periods alone. Periods affect your lives too and those of the people you love. Girls live with boys, women live with men. Appreciate the support girls may need, be kind, and understand the extra privilege boys are given by not experiencing periods, period stigma or period poverty in the same way that girls do. Girls often find that what boys think they know about periods is totally wrong. How’s your knowledge? Put the work into action and try out the TALKING PERIODS

activities opposite.

Menstruate, Tampon. Q5: Pads, pants, tampons, cups. As they’re reusuable, pants and cups are the most eco-friendly. Q1: c) 28 days. Q2: Almost £5000 (£10.24 per month). Q3: Pre-menstrual syndrome. Q4: Stigma, Ovulation, Quiz answers


SCOTLAND’S SCOTLAND PATH TO PERIOD DIGNITY The UK government sets up the Tampon Tax Fund to support women’s charities, using funds generated from the 5% VAT charged on all period products (due to EU regulations).

Scottish Labour politician Monica Lennon starts campaigning to end period poverty.

2016

2016

Introduced by Monica Lennon, the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill is passed, meaning all local authorities must provide free period products to anyone who needs them – another world first.

2020

Scotland becomes the first country to fund the provision of free period products in all schools, colleges and universities.

2018 After leaving the EU, the UK government abolishes tampon tax: VAT no longer applies to period products.

2021

The 2020 Bill becomes an official Act.

2021

THE is up to you. Break the stigma. Talk about periods. Be kind. FUTURE

and KEEP LEARNING... Find additional content and resources at: bleedingfree.wordpress.com bleedin’ saor

Bleedin’ Saor: bleedinsaor.com

Girl Up Initiative: girlupuganda.org

Hey Girls: heygirls.co.uk

Irise International: irise.org.uk

AFRIpads: afripads.com

PHAU: phauganda.org

Days for Girls: daysforgirls.org

WoMena Uganda: womena.dk

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Your Bleeding Free Guide to Periods  

The digital resource booklet to accompany Edinburgh Napier University's documentary film 'Bleeding Free', YOUR BLEEDING FREE GUIDE TO PERIOD...

Your Bleeding Free Guide to Periods  

The digital resource booklet to accompany Edinburgh Napier University's documentary film 'Bleeding Free', YOUR BLEEDING FREE GUIDE TO PERIOD...

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