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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Meet Josie Reynolds

Josie Reynolds
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Josie Reynolds is a trustee and UK research coordinator of Irise International; a charitable organisation and research group working to reduce the impact of poor menstrual hygiene management on women and girls in East Africa.  She is a medical doctor and has a long-term interest in reducing barriers to healthcare and improving social determinants of health for disadvantaged populations. This has led to voluntary work in sexual health education, advocacy and activism for HIV & AIDS charities and educational support for Somalian refugees.  Josie sat on the Panel at the Talk Period event on Thursday. We caught up with her and asked her a few questions…
How did you get into the work that you do? 

As a strong believer in promoting the voice of disadvantaged populations of society I was shocked and ashamed to learn of the injustice that girls across East Africa (and throughout the developing world) were missing school every month due to their periods. Shocked, because at that time there was a deafening silence on the issue, even within the development sector, and ashamed, because I had for my entire life taken for granted the relative ease with which I could deal with my periods without sparing a thought for those without my good-fortune. What to me was an annoyance, I realised could become a life changing burden on reaching your potential.

Irise were set up by a small group, with a big vision: A world where no girl should be held back by her period.

After extensive exploration of the issues the founding committee, originally based at the University of Sheffield, chose to focus on setting up local, women’s run, social enterprise groups to produce an affordable, reusable sanitary product and run training on menstrual health education for teachers and community leaders to disseminate high quality information.

Since then Irise has gone from strength to strength, with 6000 girls receiving the EasyPad, 8000 girls benefiting from Irise menstrual health education and 20 local women engaged in flexible employment, allowing them to afford the school fees of their own children.

What sparked this interest and why did you feel compelled to work in this are?

My interest was truely captured by the direct stories of individual girls who were doing their best to continue with a normal life whilst menstruating but were forced to stay at home without any sanitary product or hide from their friends if they’d leaked onto their skirts. It seemed to me such a stark example of the gender inequity that exists worldwide, but rather than horrific, unmissable examples such as gender-based violence and maternal deaths this insidious and entrenched culture could easily go unchecked whilst widening the gender gap for millions of girls. Watch Irise’s new animation – Periods Changes Lives – and you’ll be captured too.

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What has been your biggest achievement to date and what are you most proud of?

My proudest moment culminated on Menstrual Hygiene Day 2014. Firstly, as it provided some time for reflection on how far the field of MHM had come in the 5 years I had been involved and Irise’s involvement as one of the first international partners of the day. But more importantly, I was proud to see women and girls marching side by side with men and boys in recognition of the Menstrual Hygiene day at Kampala International University – the very first Friends of Irise Uganda event. Since then the student support groups in Uganda and wider East Africa have grown in number and strength and I am immensely proud of their achievements.

What issues do you feel particularly passionate about and important to address or change? 

I am passionate about women and girls having choice. I believe girls in Uganda should be given the same choice about their education and future as women and girls in the UK. And I believe those same girls should be given the choices that their Ugandan brothers receive. Anything else is an gender-based injustice against their human rights.

We cannot know what their choices in life will be until we start providing them with a platform to speak.

In what ways do you feel the public could get involved or behind your cause or to help improve the situation? 

Join us in helping to Break the Silence this Menstrual Hygiene Day (28th May). We’re calling for you to pledge your support and become a MHM Superhero. We’d love to see you doing your thang in Superhero style – share your photos on twitter. And by investing as little as £2.50 in a girl’s future you can support her through her whole school career.

Happy Menstrual Hygiene Day Everyone! Let’s celebrate.

It’s through events like these that we can really bring about awareness and momentum for change. Whilst my experience focuses around East Africa there is so much overlap between MHM issues in other spheres such as the affects on women without homes and shelter in the UK. It’s through sharing and debating that new ideas are generated and new connections are made.

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Meet Rose George

Meet the Team, Rose George
Rose George has written for the Guardian, New York Times, London Review of Books and others. She is the author of The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters, and Deep Sea Foreign Going: Inside shipping, the invisible industry which brings you 90% of everything, out now.  We caught up Rose George, who will be chairing the panel debate at this Thursday’s talk.Period event and asked her a few questions about why breaking menstrual hygiene taboos is important to her.
 
 

How did you get into writing?
I did my undergraduate degree in modern languages at Somerville College, Oxford, then followed this with a master’s in international relations at the University of Pennsylvania. I had a Fulbright scholarship which allowed me a few months to do an internship, and I got one at The Nation magazine in New York. At that point I was still undecided between law and journalism, but the Nation was so wonderful, I chose journalism. I worked at COLORS magazine for a few years, and have been freelance ever since.

What sparked this interest and why did you feel compelled to write the material that you do?
I’ve always written about topics that I think are important but ignored. They are easy to notice, but most people don’t. That applies to refugees (the subject of my first book), sanitation (my second) or shipping and seafarers (the third). I began to write about menstruation and menstrual hygiene through my work in sanitation: once you notice that so many girls drop out of school when they reach puberty because there is no toilet, it’s easy to make the connection.


What has been your biggest achievement to date and what are you most proud of?
I’m extremely proud of my book The Big Necessity. I still get emails from people saying how much of an impact it has had on them, and how it has changed their views. Some have written to say they have chosen to work in NGOs or as sanitation engineers, partly because of my book. No writer could wish for more than that.


What issues do you feel particularly passionate about and important to address or change?
I feel passionate about injustice. I don’t think it is just or fair for example that a perfectly natural function such as menstruation should be cloaked in taboo, disdain and ridiculous adverts that only ever promote sanitary products as something that makes women discreet and fragrant. I will not be discreet, either about the fact I have periods, or about writing about it.


In what ways do you feel the public could get involved or behind this to improve the situation?
In a way it’s very simple when something is this neglected: talk about it. In sanitation more broadly, I know that there are hundreds of people doing the real work of policy change, or working in the field. My job is to communicate what they do, and I try to do that as best I can. The public can support organizations financially, but also in small ways, like not hiding their tampons or sanitary pads when they queue up at the checkout; or making sure young girls and women are not encouraged to be ashamed; or petitioning the government on the absurd fact that sanitary protection is taxed.

Why is getting involved in Talk Period event important to you?
I support any new initiative around improving the status of menstruation and menstrual hygiene. Those two both sounds like things that are only relevant to the developing world, but there is much to change in the developed world too, such as the lack of transparency about the dioxin content in cotton used in sanitary protection; or a taboo that means sportswomen, for example, can’t admit they’re having periods even when it affects their performance. For a start.

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Meet Laura Coryton

Laura Coryton, Meet the Team

Laura Coryton, is a 21-year-old student from Devon, now studying at Goldsmiths University. She’s launched a campaign on Change.org to “Stop period tax. Period” and has already garnered more than 200,000 signatures in a matter of months. The goal of her petition is to persuade George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to reduce the UK’s “outdated, damaging” sanitary tax from five to zero per cent. We caught up with the campaigner, who will be speaking on the panel at our talk.Period event this coming Thursday and asked her a few questions about why breaking menstrual hygiene taboos is important to her.

What were the turn of events that lead you to found the Stop Taxing Our Periods.Period movement?

I had absolutely no idea that it would turn into any kind of a successful petition, let alone a movement. I was totally unprepared for how amazing our supporters would be. However, my twin sister’s house mate, Verity, inspired me to start the petition. She sent me an article that highlighted the fact that the tax existed in outrage, and I decided that maybe we should do something about it.

What sparked this interest and why did you feel compelled to do this? 

At first, I assumed that sanitary tax must be justifiable in some way. Perhaps in context it wouldn’t seem so outrageous. I did some research in the hopes that my suspicions would be confirmed. They were worsened. I discovered that sanitary tax was implemented on overtly sexist grounds, and that alternative items such as edible sugar jellies and private helicopter maintained could be enjoyed tax free. I was shocked. This feeling has been what has kept me focused on fixing a tax system that has been built so overtly to benefit a male bourgeoisie that simply has no relevance in the twenty-first century.

What has been your biggest achievement to date and what are you most proud of?

Without a doubt I am most proud of the protests and demonstrations that our supporters have made such a success. Meeting everybody and demonstrating alongside them has been the most inspiring experience that I have been so lucky to be apart of.

What other issues do you feel particularly passionate about and important to address or change? 

I am a massive supporter of the very successful No More Page 3 campaign, as well as the Free the Nipple campaign. I am also hugely admirable of anti-homophobia and -transphobia campaigners and have always firmly believed that your gender and sexuality should never hinder your chances in life.

In what ways do you feel the public could get involved or behind this to improve the situation? 

People need to talk! Talk about menstruation, and all the wonders of having your period. There is no reason to be embarrassed or ashamed about something so natural. Together, if we shout loud enough, we can demand a positive change and challenge the period taboo that has silenced and shamed those who menstruate forever. We will be able to demand that our tax system is rebuilt for us, the people, and not for an elite minority, stuck in 1973 when the tax was introduced.

Why is getting involved in Talk Period important to you

Talk Period is an amazing organisation aimed at challenging the period taboo, which is integral to this campaign. It is am honour to be associated with them. Together, organisations like yours can make period talk something that isn’t unfairly ridiculed, so that people have a greater change of feeling happy and comfortable in their own bodies.

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