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In 2017, I was given an opportunity that I didn’t know was going to change my life. I was speaking at a conference with a group of amazing menstrual equity activists in New York City. We were discussing the importance sustainable period care options, and how to end menstrual inequity. I had asked a crew of filmmakers and producers to tag along for the trip. Following my gut feeling, we needed to capture this historic moment.
Four years later, on International Women’s Day, we released what is now the first-ever feature-length documentary film on menstrual equity and period poverty. Pandora’s Box: Lifting the Lid on Menstruation went on to win numerous awards and accolades. Thousands of people around the world have seen our documentary at film festivals and screenings in the past year.
I never planned to add ‘Executive Producer’ to my title beside CEO and Founder of Diva International, makers of the DivaCup. But today, when Pandora’s Box is available for all, I am glad I followed my gut.
Making a film on the fight to end menstrual inequity was life-changing for me. As a business owner, an activist, but most importantly as a woman. To this day, I continue to learn from this experience.
But not everyone has the time to make a full-length documentary film. Here are my top five lessons – so you don’t have to make a documentary yourself.
1. Everyone deserves to menstruate with dignity.
Hearing stories from women across the globe, the need for sustainable and affordable period care only became more apparent to me. The lengths some people who menstruate go to in order to care for themselves truly shocked me. Incarcerated women sneaking toilet paper into their cells in fear that they won’t be given enough product, or free bleeding into soil where access to a toilet or running water is difficult. For some, sanitary period care seems next to impossible. This film reaffirmed why the work we do at Diva is so crucial. Helping people menstruate with dignity, either through sustainable period care options, or our Impact Program, is so important to our mission.
2. Menstrual inequity is a fixable issue.
With more governments around the world, such as Poland, New Zealand, and recently, France, recognizing that access to period care is a human right, we can begin to see a path towards the end of menstrual inequity. So much of how we understand and educate ourselves about periods has been dictated by people who don’t menstruate. Or by people who have limited knowledge and experience on the subject. Learning that period care is often categorized or taxed as a non-essential item, really opened my eyes to how periods are framed. Especially in North America.
3. We need education for everyone.
Oftentimes when we speak about periods and education on periods, we think of it only affecting those who menstruate. However, only engaging with menstruators is a way for misinformation to persist. This is a conversation that involves those who don’t menstruate as well. Educating everyone in a meaningful way will dispel myths, stigmas, and taboos around periods. We need to create accomplices in the fight for menstrual equity.
4. De-mythify the period.
Learning about myths from around the world was eye-opening in understanding the stigmas around periods. There are ancient stories claiming that periods could sour crops or sink ships. Some religious texts state that women can’t lead since we might soil altars when on our periods. In India, girls aren’t allowed to eat or touch certain foods when they’re on their period and are barred from entering religious temples. In Kenya, some girls can’t be in the same room as the rest of their family because they fear their periods. The list goes on and on. The fear of periods created from these myths contributes to misinformation that is counterproductive in the fight for menstrual equity. We cannot evoke change unless we de-myth-ify the period.
If you’re considering a menstrual cup, read our article of 10 myths busted about menstrual cups.
5. Period care is community care.
I’m in constant awe of what people are able to do when they come together for a cause. We see this often with the DivaCup, and our amazing social impact program and its community. Period care is based in communities – how we work together, how we disarm outdated and harmful myths, how we provide each other with what we need: a hug, a cup of sugar, a pad, a tampon, a DivaCup. Communities coming together to fight menstrual inequity allows me to believe that there is an equitable future ahead.