Diary of a Diva: Princeton Menstruation Celebration!

Hi there!

My name is Jamie, and I’m one of the co-presidents of Princeton Students for Gender Equality (PSGE). We teamed up with The DivaCup to hold a Menstruation Celebration, an event to break the menstrual taboo, educate students about menstruation, collect product donations, and most of all, celebrate periods!

Why Hold a Menstruation Celebration?

It all started last summer when I was texting with a guy friend who is studying to be a doctor and the topic of menstruation came up. It soon became clear that he knew the science behind it and the technical terms, but had no idea what periods are actually like for those who have them. He thought we changed a tampon two or three times per period! I was shocked! I texted a dozen other non-menstruating friends and found that many also had no idea what people who menstruate experience on a monthly basis. Something had to be done! So, PSGE decided to partner with Princeton Students for Reproductive Justice (PSRJ) to plan the Menstruation Celebration event!

We Spread the Word!

To advertise the event, we hung up posters and put the word “menstruation” all over campus!
We also interviewed Princeton students who don’t menstruate about what they know about periods for a hilarious and surprising video.
I definitely recommend you watch it!

The Day of the Event!

We held the event on November 18th in our central campus center, and it was a huge hit! Hundreds of people stopped by to talk about and celebrate menstruation.
There was so much to do and see, including:

  • Homemade period-themed snacks: vulva cupcakes, pretzel tampons dipped in white and red chocolate, uterus cookies, and chocolate-chip ovary bread.
  • Fun games and activities: pin the ovaries on the uterus, a uterus piñata full of red candy, a photo station with a giant uterus and period trivia with The DivaCup notebooks as a prize!
  • Informational posters about what a period is, period myths, periods and politics and how to use trans-inclusive language when talking about periods.
  • Alternative products station featuring a demonstration of The DivaCup!
  • Access station featuring stories from people who struggle to access period products.
  • Collected donations for Distributing Dignity, an organization that provides pads, tampons, and bras to those who need them.
  • A raffle for The DivaCup and Diva Wash, as well as some other great products.

Amazing Results!

We collected some amazing menstrual product donations and we raised over $700 for Distributing Dignity! The event had a huge impact on campus, people were talking about menstruation in dining halls and dorms across campus. Thank you so, so much to The DivaCup team for the support and the incredibly generous donation. Tons of people came into the event confused or unsure about The DivaCup and left with far more information and excitement. (And a personal thank you to Diva Cup for getting me through hiking trips, my gap year in Senegal, and life at Princeton!)
Much menstruation love,

 

Jamie O’Leary.
Jamie O’Leary is a sophomore at Princeton University from Rutland, VT. She is an Anthropology major with a Gender and Sexuality Studies minor, and she is especially interested in studying and breaking taboos around women’s bodies and sexuality. She is one of the founders and co-presidents of Princeton Students for Gender Equality (PSGE), an activist group and an inclusive, intersectional forum for discussions of feminism, gender, sex, and sexuality. (Check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/princetonstudentsforgenderequality/).

 

Menstrual Hygiene is Key to Global Development

When it comes to global development, in working to advance families and breaking the cycle of poverty, women’s empowerment is the key. However, a major obstacle that stands in the way of bringing all women to the forefront is the taboo surrounding the topic of menstruation.

MHDay_banner_blue_FBWomen’s empowerment and feminism are hot topics right now, especially when it comes to creating more educational equity on a global scale. However, no matter how many opportunities we create, women and girls will not be able to take full advantage of those opportunities if menstrual hygiene is not addressed. Periods are the number one reason why girls miss school in developing countries. In Kenya, girls miss an average of 4.9 days of school each month because of a lack of access to adequate menstrual hygiene. That is almost a full week of class, or 25% of one school month. Think about that… because of periods alone, girls are missing almost a whole quarter of their classes.

In many countries, periods can be scary because of what menstruation symbolizes—the transition from being a child to a woman, ready to be a wife and mother. In some other countries, as I have learned, getting your period can be the signifying event that prompts female genital mutilation, child marriage, and dropping out of school.

Inadequate menstrual hygiene management also has negative mental and physical consequences. In India, 70% of reproductive diseases are caused by poor menstrual hygiene, and the effects can go so far as to affect maternal mortality. Unclean methods of maintaining menstrual hygiene caused by a lack of resources, or lack of education on the usage of products, can lead to infections ranging from skin irritation to something more fatal, like toxic shock syndrome. Poor menstrual hygiene management may also cause strange bodily odors and bleeding through one’s clothes, which causes women and girls to feel nervous and self-conscious when on their period.

This taboo around menstruation causes people to associate periods with weakness. A week in their month where girls feel emotionally on edge, in pain with cramps, confused about new food cravings, and worried about bleeding through their clothes. I, myself, before coming to the realization of how human and real it is as a woman to experience periods, identified my time of the month as a weakness.

Women (more so, all humans) deserve to feel confident and ready to reach their full potential, regardless of a biological function. Thus, the stigma surrounding the topic of menstruation is an obstacle standing in the way of the right to reach one’s full potential. Limiting the potential of essentially half of the world’s population due to menstruation is in itself a fundamental barrier to continued global development.

eng_facebook_girls_1This is one of the many reasons why a day like Menstrual Hygiene Day, which is observed every year on May 28th, is so important. Menstrual Hygiene Day raises awareness around menstrual health, the barriers that people who menstruate face, and the effects that inadequate education, sanitation, and understanding about menstruation can have on women and girls all around the world.

We all need to become advocates for menstruation. In the US, only about 20% of our government positions are held by women, and if that 80% who are men are afraid to talk about menstruation, women and girls all around the world will continue to feel silenced and less capable on their periods. It is clear that menstruation impacts more than just one week of each month in a woman’s life. The menstrual movement is a human movement, and it starts now, with all of us—boys, girls, men, women—let’s all give power to the period!

 

 

NadyaNadya Okamoto
Nadya Okamoto is an 18-year-old from Portland, Oregon. She is also the Founder and Executive Director of Camions of Care–a global nonprofit organization that strives to address the natural needs of women through advocacy, education, and service. Nadya founded Camions of Care after her family experienced a degree of homelessness, during which she discovered the unaddressed need of menstrual hygiene. Nadya wants people to understand that everyone deserves to have their natural needs met so they feel ready to achieve their full potential. She is also the Youth Director of Social Venture Partners Youth, is on the board of the Women’s Foundation of Oregon, PLAN International USA, and is involved in many other school activities around law practice, politics, and gender equality.

  

Every Diva Needs her own Period Repair Manual

Lara Briden, ND, author of the popular book, Period Repair Manual talked with The Diva Team about her knowledge and expertise when it comes to all things period! This engaging book provides women with details, advice and tips about everything you need to know, do and follow when it comes to your period.

And… The DivaCup is offering a Period Repair Giveaway, entry details are below!PRM Book

Based on the information regarding the pill and its side effects, what is the best/most informative way to educate women on alternative contraceptive methods?

Non-hormonal birth control is a viable option for women of any age. As I explain in my book, the advantage of a non-hormonal method is that it permits healthy ovulatory cycles and therefore production of the estrogen and progesterone we need for bones, metabolism, and mood.

The best method of non-hormonal birth control is a combination of condoms and Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). Through FAM, women will learn to recognize their peak fertile days (charted according to fertility awareness-based methods), and then abstain on those few days per month. Strategic short-term abstinence greatly reduces the risk of pregnancy in the unlikely event of a broken condom.

A second non-hormonal method is the copper intrauterine device (IUD). It prevents pregnancy by impairing sperm motility and implantation, and is highly effective with a failure rate of just 0.6 percent (lower than the Pill).

Can you expand on the importance of hormonal receptors and the “river system?”

Our bodies get used to a certain level of hormones. In the book, I used an analogy of hormonal rivers carving out gullies, and the gullies are the memory of the hormone receptors. For example, when estrogen receptors become accustomed to the torrent of strong synthetic estrogen in the birth control pill, it can be difficult to adapt to the trickling stream of normal estrogen. This adaptation or—dare we day, addiction—to synthetic estrogen is the cause of post-pill symptoms such as acne and hair loss.

What effect does a woman’s diet have on her menstrual cycle? Do you feel women need to be more conscience about their diet during menstruation?

Diet has a profound effect on menstrual health. First of all, a period-friendly diet provides all the nutrients required by the ovaries and hormonal system. Those include zinc, iodine, magnesium, and iron—to name just a few. Many women don’t obtain enough of those key nutrients, which is why they suffer symptoms such as period pain and PMS.

A period-friendly diet is also an anti-inflammatory diet, which means that it contains little or no inflammatory foods such as sugar and alcohol. Inflammatory foods cause period problems because they interfere with hormonal signalling.

To be effective, a period-friendly diet must be followed all the days of the cycle—not just during menstruation.

What are the best ways for women to be more educated about their period?

I’m a big fan of period apps, which are smartphone applications that allow women to track data about their monthly cycles. Apps can track cycle length, as well as symptoms such as spotting, breast tenderness, and mood.

Many apps also track cervical fluid and basal body temperature so that women can detect the mid-cycle temperature rise that signals ovulation. Ovulation is the most important event in the menstrual cycle because it’s how we make progesterone. A menstrual cycle without ovulation is not a healthy cycle.

What are some symptoms of menstrual disorders that girls and women can look out for?

A menstrual cycle should be regular (21-35 days). It should arrive without premenstrual symptoms, and without pain. It should not be heavier than 80 mL (The DivaCup holds 30 ml) over all the days of the bleed.

Common period symptoms include irregular periods, spotting between periods, painful periods, and heavy periods. Those are all clues that I discuss in Chapter 5 of my book: “What Can Go Wrong With Your Period?”. I call them clues because period symptoms are almost always an expression of underlying general health. For example, irregular periods can mean a problem with the hormone insulin. Painful periods can mean zinc deficiency. The best way to fix periods is to fix the underlying issue.

You provide many tips in the book, but which three tips do you think are most important? 

  1. Learn to detect ovulation. Ovulation is the key to a healthy menstrual cycle because it’s how we make progesterone. Progesterone deficiency causes many period problems including PMS, PCOS, and heavy periods.
  2. Reduce inflammatory foods such sugar, alcohol, vegetable oils, and for some women: wheat and dairy products.
  3. Take magnesium. I call magnesium the Miracle Mineral for Periods because it’s my front-line treatment for almost every period problem including PMS, PCOS, and period pain. Magnesium helps periods because it helps the body to cope with stress. It also improves the function of insulin and thyroid hormones, and is essential for the manufacture of both estrogen and progesterone.

Learn more by picking up a copy of Period Repair Manual! The DivaCup is also giving our Divas the chance to win a Period Repair Manual Prize Pack! Enter for your chance to win a copy of Period Repair Manual, The DivaCup and DivaWash!

ENTER HERE!

Lara BridenLara Briden 
Lara Briden is a board certified naturopathic doctor who qualified from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in 1997. She currently runs a busy hormone clinic in Sydney, Australia. Lara has also been a devoted user of Divacup for more than 10 years.

 

 

Providing Period Care for Pader Girls Academy

This past spring, Diva International Inc. partnered with Lunapads in support of their One4Her program in recognition of Menstrual Hygiene Day. We committed to donate an AFRIpads Kit (5 reusable pads and 1 carrying bag) for every DivaCup sold on Lunapads.com during the month of May. Each kit provides a girl with a sustainable supply of cloth pads to manage her period for over a year.

This year, thanks to our Divas, we were able to go above and beyond our goal of 500 kits with a total of 524 kits to girls in need!pader

These pads were distributed to the child mothers studying at Pader Girls Academy, in Uganda. The young girls who live at PGA have been victims of rape, coercion or abduction (due to Uganda’s 25-year civil war) and have missed the opportunity to continue their education as child mothers are often stigmatized.

However, with its special day care services and opportunity for vocational and secondary education, PGA is a rare opportunity for these strong young women to continue their education, and learn to advocate for themselves and their families.

Recently, Diva International Inc. received a letter from Denis Ongaya, Deputy Program Director of PGA, expressing his thanks for Diva and Lunapads’ help.

On behalf of the management and students of Pader Girls’ Academy, we sincerely appreciate Lunapads and Diva International Inc. for the support extended to the disadvantaged girls in this school. This support will go a long way to enhancing our on-going efforts in improving learning at the school by increasing convenience to the mothers as they attend classes during their menses.

The Afripads kits were distributed to 229 girls in the school each receiving one kit leaving a balance of 295. The balance is still kept at the school and will be distributed to the vocational students expected to report for non-formal learning in third term 2015.

pader2At Diva International Inc., menstrual hygiene management means a lot to us and we believe that all women deserve to manage their period safely and with dignity. All too often, supplies needed for period care are difficult to find due to poverty and limited resources, but thanks to Lunapads and our Divas we were able to supply these much needed supplies to the young women at PGA.

But the fight is not over. Please take some time to learn about Menstrual Hygiene Day and how you can work to fight poverty, menstrual taboos and how to ensure that women around the world can receive the basic needs they deserve. Together we can show the world that #MenstruationMatters!

Help change a young girl’s life by donating to Pads4Girls or shop to support One4Her today!

 

 

 

 

#MenstruationMatters to Diva International Inc.

The month of May is a favourite at Diva International Inc. for many reasons. The sun is shining, flowers are blooming and it plays host to one of our favourite days: Menstrual Hygiene Day (MHD).

Organized by Wash United, and together with close to 300 partners from around the globe, MHD is a global effort to draw attention to the women’s right to hygienically manage their periods, no matter where they live.

Why does it matter?

In other parts of the world, women have very different experiences during their period. Girls and women in developing countries miss 20 percent of their education or work because they are unable to attend while they are menstruating. This can be due to insufficient water and sanitation facilities, poor access to menstrual materials and a lack of menstrual hygiene education.

In order to change the attitudes surrounding menstrual hygiene management (MHM), there needs to be education. However, in many countries menstruation is still considered taboo and many women are left in the dark about what is happening to their bodies and how they can manage their cycle.

Did You Know…

  • 83% of girls in Burkina Faso and 77% in Niger have no place at school to change their sanitary menstrual materials.
  • Many women and girls use unsanitary materials such as old rags, husks, dried leaves, grass, ash, sand or newspapers because they do not have access to affordable, hygienic and safe resources.
  • By the time a girl finishes grade 8, she will already have missed up to 30 weeks of school.MHD
  • Commercial menstrual pads can be too expensive for low-income girls and women to afford. In Mukuru, Nairobi many girls aged 10?19 have reported having sex with older men to pay for basic items, such as pads.
  • In one study by HERProject, 73% of the Bangladeshi garment workers they interviewed miss work for an average of 6 days per month (resulting in unpaid work days) due to vaginal infections caused by unsanitary menstrual materials.
  • 48 % of girls in Iran and 10 % of girls in India believe that menstruation is a disease.
  • Chhaupadi’, a practice that forces menstruating women and girls to sleep in separate huts or sheds (and subjects them to other harsh restrictions) is still widely observed in many rural areas.
  • In Western parts of Uganda, country cattle owners do not let menstruating women attend to their cows for fear that the milk may turn bloody.

Changing the Future for Women

While many of these facts are surprising, organizations and individuals are working to create a unified voice for women and girls around the world to break the silence surrounding MHM.

For example:

  • Looking at current market trends, more and more women in developing countries are getting access to hygienic menstrual products.
  • The Kenyan government will spend over USD $2 million to provide pads to 678,770 disadvantaged school girls and Kenya eliminated the import tax on menstrual products in 2011 to reduce costs.
  • Many NGOs & social businesses are making enormous progress on delivering menstrual hygiene education
  • There are many men working to de-stigmatize and break the silence around menstruation by advocating for improved MHM.

Get Involved!

You can get involved in MHD by sharing the many resources put together by the team at WASH United. Share the MHD infographic and #MenstruationMatters sign to your Facebook or Twitter profile, or attend an event! You can also show your support beyond MHD, whether financially or through your time, by giving to one of the incredible organizations who are helping to provide women and girls with accessible and affordable menstrual hygiene products.

diva500-2What we are doing to help?

At Diva International Inc., MHM means a lot to us and we believe that all women deserve to manage their period safely and with dignity. That is why, in recognition of Menstrual Hygiene Day, Diva International Inc. is partnering with Lunapads and their One4Her program, committing to donating an AFRIPad kit (complete with 5 pads and 1 carrying bag) to the girls and women of Pader Girls Academy for every DivaCup sold on Lunapads.com during the month of May.

Help us reach our goal of distributing 500 kits; purchase The DivaCup today to help support girls’ and women’s futures around the world!

 

 

Reference Guide: All facts were drawn from the Menstrual Hygiene Day Fact Sheets produced by WASH United. View them here.