Meet Jorden Williams

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Meet Jorden Willimas, who obtained a bachelor of Arts in film/video photographic arts at Newport University. Jorden designed the mask for the Talk Period  / Stop taxing our period. period march which was held over the May bank holiday. Hear how she got involved in Talk Period.

In order to express my art practice, I have always used a vast array of mediums, conveying subject matter of a similarly varying scale. In the last few years, however, feminist values have become the primary motif, dominating my work. As I have learned about and grown acutely more aware of global inequality, I have developed a strong desire to fight for change, crossing the boundaries laid out by a historically patriarchal society, using art and activism as my vehicle. I cannot possibly think of a better platform to initiate change than the public domain

A couple of months ago, when reading an article in VICE Magazine, I found myself considering the sanitary tax and how it affects all women but, more deeply, the women most vulnerable in society. The article’s author, Maya Oppenheim, discussed the nightmarish difficulty homeless women and girls face when menstruating. Most women dread their time of the month, but may not be able to comprehend the hell it brings when you do not have access to even the most basic sanitary care. This struggle inspired me to start an online fundraiser to provide two night shelters with a variety of sanitary products. Moving forward, I will continue to campaign against the sanitary tax. I believe we must quash the worldwide taboo surrounding menstruation and challenge archaic legislation.

The aforementioned fundraising I carried out for the homeless shelter was definitely one of my proudest achievements recently, as the support was overwhelming. Resulting in the target amount being doubled. This provided 3,500 sanitary products for woman in Bristol and Cardiff. I then went on to create the Menstruation Demonstration event. I invited people to walk in solidarity to raise awareness of the challenges those who menstruate face, and to confront the intolerable sanitary tax legislation. The event launched with the presence of a silenced crowd. Their mouths concealed with a mask, to reflect the silence that is enforced from societal taboos surrounding menstruation. As the crowd descended through the streets of Bristol, they emanated a bellowing noise of chants and protests, breaking the silence surrounding menstruation. The passion and unity that was demonstrated by everyone involved raised awareness of the cause, serving on to reiterate the importance of intersecting activism and art.

I hold a fervent passion for all aspects of feminist practice, particularly with an interest in women’s health. I believe it is intensely important to confront characteristics of the feminine experience, which are typically disregarded or concealed such as the health risks attached to ‘feminine hygiene products’ and healthcare. Aiming to deconstruct the trust we place in superiority, science and advertising. Addressing these taboos will allow us to share and gain knowledge, and work together to make change.

Menstruation is a natural process that around half the world experience. It shouldn’t be treated as a shameful act that is unmentionable. We need to talk about it, by joining in solidarity and offering a voice we can address the issues that need to change. Menstruation shouldn’t come between a girl and her right to an education, homeless women shouldn’t have to choose between food and sanitary products, our landfills shouldn’t be overflowed with menstrual waste. Together we have a voice, so let’s talk period.

Getting involved with talkPeriod has been hugely important to me, because I believe it has created a voice amongst the Bristol community. It has been a pleasure speaking with progressive and like-minded individuals who are also passionate about the welfare of those that menstruate worldwide. I feel the movement will allow me to pursue my desire to fight global inequality.

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Let’s talk.Period

Chloe, Meet the Team

The talk.Period event is happening in Bristol this Global Menstrual Hygiene day- 28th May 2015. RSVP

As an engineer, I’ve been taught to problem solve from day one. It comes naturally to me and if it doesn’t come naturally then I work away, breaking the problem down into chunks until I can find a solution.

Many people don’t believe me when I say I use my engineering skills every single day in my job. They say “what you do- it’s health work” or “it’s education” or “it’s social work”, “it’s not engineering, it’s not technical”. But what I do every single day is problem solve. That’s the job description of an engineer: to problem solve. Every day I use my maths, my design knowledge, my negotiation skills, my project management, my communication skills, my knowledge of sustainability and the uncanny engineering skill of ‘guestimating’.

Lack of menstrual hygiene is a problem.  If you can’t go to school because of fear you will stain your school uniform- that’s a problem. If you can’t go to work because you’re not allowed to leave the house on your period– that’s a problem. If you don’t have a private space to change your sanitary towel or wash your bloody hands- that’s a problem. And if you think you’re cursed because you don’t know why you’re bleeding out of a body part you can’t even name- that’s a problem. Since, finishing my degree last summer I’ve realised these are problems that I really want to help solve.

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My own experience of pit latrines and no running water has reinforced what a problem no facilities can be.

I have been lucky enough to help work on solutions to these problems in both Bolivia and Uganda. What it all boils down to is a lack of education, a lack of proper facilities and a lack of access to appropriate sanitary materials. Many women and girls are forced to use sand, ash, leaves, bark or filthy rags that you “wouldn’t clean the floor with” because they have no other choice.

All around the world, menstruation is a huge taboo. If you aren’t even allowed to talk about it, how are you meant to manage it? This ‘hush-hush’ attitude has led to a huge number of myths and beliefs. In Bolivia they believe you can’t eat onions whilst menstruating as it might cause cancer, in Uganda it’s said if a menstruating women crosses a garden all of the plants will wither and die. Where do these beliefs come from? Noone seems to really know but what we do know is that women and girls are restricted and controlled by them, at a time when they naturally feel more self-conscious and withdrawn. Not exactly confident boosting.

I often wonder, if no one talks about it, how do these taboos become rife?CONVERSATION

From my experience in these two very different cultures I’ve heard completely opposing beliefs. In Bolivia it’s often believed women and girls who are menstruating should not touch water and if they do they will get blemishes on their faces, this leads to a lack of washing and personal hygiene during their period which can cause teasing and even health problems. However in Uganda, its common to believe that you should wash 4 or more times a day whilst menstruating and there is even a practice of douching the vagina (spraying water inside it) to ensure you are clean. I would love to introduce a Bolivian who doesn’t wash on her period to a Ugandan who over washes and let them talk it out.

Working in a developing country is never easy. You have communication barriers (even if they speak English), logistical nightmares, power cuts, strikes, extreme weather and a constant battle to be heard as a person rather than goggled at like the bemusing alien you are. Working on such a sensitive topic, I was worried people wouldn’t want to talk to me. That I wouldn’t even be able to find out what some of the problems are, never mind help them solve them but actually I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how eager people are to learn and to share around this taboo subject.

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Students from all over East Africa coming together to learn how to run menstrual health education sessions.
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Girls learning to sew reusable sanitary pads in Bolivia
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Teachers learning about menstrual hygiene to pass on to their students in Uganda

I started no more taboo. to solve a big problem and although I’m nowhere near a solution at least I’ve started to understand some of the chunks that this problem is broken down into. I hope when I get back to the UK in a few months’ time I can also start to understand the chunk of the menstrual hygiene problem there including homelessness and poverty.

The talk.Period event is a great chance to find out more about menstrual hygiene problems and to help engineer solutions.

talk period- 28th May

Written by Chloe Tingle of No More Taboo