The period educator. The health expert. The innovator.by Louise Turner, Volunteer Writer & Interviewer
A global problem with unique solutions.The Gordian Knot in the 4th century BC represented the most complex, intractable problem to ever exist. It was stated whoever could loosen the knot would be crowned king. Untangling the problem of securing safe healthy menstruation remains a worldwide challenge. The prize, no less than equality. We currently have up to 500 million women, girls and menstruators across the globe in period poverty, menstrual taboos stubbornly persistent, plastics, bleaches and dioxins end up in our period products, and plastic pollution in our waterways.
The period educator.
Chella Quint is the founder of Period Positive, menstrual educator and former head of PSHE in Sheffield who coined the term ‘period positive’ in 2006. A design researcher, writer, artist and activist as well, she works with a variety of different organisations to find long-term solutions to period poverty and change the way we talk about menstruation.
What do you do?I started the concept of period positivity because as a teen I felt deeply unsafe talking about menstruation; from fears picked up seeing products warning of leaks, adults whispering, a school visitor dispensing samples advising we hide them. That secrecy discouraged me from finding what a healthy period felt and looked like or, what confident, comfortable period talk sounded like. It took years of work to improve my menstrual literacy so I could help others. I wrote comedy. I ditched words that made me feel dirty like ‘sanitary’ and ‘hygiene’. I started saying ‘menstrual’ when discussing products or my health. Why shouldn’t all of us? If the word menstruation is not for everyone, every day, who is it for?
What inspires you?We’re at a turning point in England – period poverty is worse but schools aren’t taking up the government’s free products. Our cultural attitudes haven’t caught up with our excellent intentions. We’ve internalised some bloody baggage, and we bring this to our activism, policy and leadership, whatever our age or gender. We must keep challenging what’s ingrained, continually re-examining where we are and how we got here.
How can we achieve safe, healthy menstruation for all?I have three offers. The first is a professional framework: the Period Positive Pledge – a plan for supporting this growing field of enterprise, activism and policy and supporting charter mark that are focused on inclusion, sustainability, education and community – one which asks us to reflect and improve constantly.
The second is a recipe:Period poverty procurement needs to be proportional – like making a crumble. If it isn’t we will be stuck in this awkward moment. We need to address the poverty of knowledge and confidence too.
Period poverty crumble proportions
½ education and training for staff and pupils
¼ disposable products
¼ reusable products
100% plastic free
Evaluate regularly and change the recipe to your pupils’ taste.
Aim for more sustainable solutions every year.
The third is some warm and hopeful reading from Professor Chris Bobel: The Managed Body: Developing Girls and Menstrual Health in the Global South, which makes the case for robust data, trained and trusted educators and a focus beyond product provision and on to menstrual literacy. These resources show us how to see past urgency and crisis, prepare for a sustained and sustainable movement, and make lasting change for the future.
The health expert.
Helen Lynn is a health and environment advisor to Wen, and researcher. Helen was Wen’s Health Coordinator, and founded the Alliance for Cancer Prevention and No More Breast Cancer Campaign.
What do you do?My work revolves around research into the health aspects of menstruation especially in relation to potentially harmful chemicals and residues found in menstrual products -translating it into non-scientific language to update briefings and inform campaigns about the issues.
What inspires you?My biggest inspiration is the women who work at Wen who managed to secure funding and reinvigorate the Environmenstrual campaign, developing Environmenstrual Week and continuing to break down the taboos and lobby for safer, less wasteful products. The upsurge in interest from young women and all those who menstruate has been very heartwarming. Truly breaking down the taboos and bringing menstruation into the open where it belongs. Campaigns from women like Ella Daish and those addressing period poverty are truly ground-breaking.
How can we achieve safe, healthy menstruation for all?My hope for the future is that menstruation will be seen as an empowering time of the month and everyone who needs them will have access to safe, reusable products. Just as important, is that period product producers become more transparent about what is in their products, and work to remove all traces of potentially harmful chemicals and plastic.
Tara Chandra, is Co-founder of FLO, a cheeky, conscious brand selling sustainable period products with a social conscience. Formerly a recording music artist, Tara developed FLO during her Executive Global Master’s in Management programme at London School of Economics where she was named a C200 Scholar.