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Black Women Fighting the Period Stigma

Apr 15, 2021 09:00AM ● By Boitumelo Masihleho

Menstruation is a natural biological function that more than 800 million women and girls experience. However, a study by Female Foward Together showed that 62% of women and 59% of men still describe periods as something embarrassing to talk about. 


Fortunately, there is a growing campaign to break the stigma surrounding menstruation and to challenge the current narrative. We highlight the work of young Black women, and organizations led by Black women, who aren’t only challenging the stigma of menstruation but also fighting period poverty.


Candice Chirwa, also known as the “Minister of Menstruation”, is a societal leader in South Africa with an avid interest in sexual and reproductive health issues. She believes that women and girls deserve fundamental human rights. Through this belief and her academic background, Candice educates the youth on menstrual education with her award-winning NGO, Qrate, and holds menstruation workshops across the country.


Chirwa authored the book series called Perils of Patriarchy and has a TEDx Talk called Bad Blood, which focused on the stigmas surrounding periods. “I remember having learned about periods in school only from a biological perspective. The lessons left out important information about our bodies, the use of sanitary products, and dismantling the period taboos,” explained Chirwa in an interview with Global Citizen. “Seeing participants leave the workshops openly saying the word “vagina” or “menstruation” without flinching always leaves a smile with the Qrate team”


American menstrual hygiene brand, Kotex, has partnered with South African television personality and rapper, Boity Thulo, for its new campaign dubbed #ChangeTheTune. The campaign aims to start conversations, raise awareness, and bust period stereotypes. “We are changing the tune about periods and getting women to celebrate their periods. They are a symbol of our strength and our power,” said Boity in a video on Kotex’s Twitter page.

 

Lebogang Keolebogile Maruapula is a youth leader in her community, a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, and co-founder of The Goddess Foundation, which focuses on the empowerment of girls through mentorship and activities that promote dialogue and shed light on their struggles. “Growing up in Botswana, the topic of periods was always spoken of in hushed tones. The stigma around the subject of periods makes little room for dialogue”, Maruapula said in an article she wrote for the World Economic Forum Africa. “Prioritising female health in Africa is smart economics for the continent. Every woman and girl should have access to feminine hygiene products to fully participate and contribute to national development.”


In 2019, Singapore-based Freedom Cups partnered with The Black Women’s Health Imperative to donate 2000 menstrual cups to women in Atlanta and Kigali, Rwanda, where access to basic resources is a challenge. This campaign was in response to a 2019 study that found 64 percent of women surveyed had been unable to afford period products during the previous year, and 21 percent had experienced this problem every month.


“Our organization addresses the most pressing issues impacting Black women, and the cost of sanitary products puts the education of our young women and girls in jeopardy, both in the US and abroad, and deserves our attention and action,” said Linda Goler Blount, President & CEO of Black Women’s Health Imperative. “Women developing a positive attitude about their bodies and their periods is vital, and the availability of menstrual cups will provide protection that increases freedom and confidence.” 


Cece Jones-Davis, an ordained minister, speaker, singer, social advocate, and entrepreneur from rural Virginia, is also a menstrual advocate who, along with OB-GYN Dr. Kiarra King, joined forces with Tampax. As brand ambassadors for the Tampax Live Radiant campaign, Jones-Davis focused on breaking the awkward silence around menstruation for Black women. “I think Black women want to come to their own spaces and not have to lean outside to talk about these things. There's a trust factor involved,” said Jones in an interview.


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Black Women’s Health Imperative

Global Citizen

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 Boitumelo Masihleho is a South African digital content creator. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Rhodes University in Journalism and Media Studies and Politics and International Studies.  

She's an experienced multimedia journalist who is committed to writing balanced, informative and interesting stories on a number of topics. Boitumelo has her own YouTube channel where she shares her love for affordable beauty and lifestyle content. 






Read more from Boitumelo Masihleho:

How Menopause Affects Black Women Differently

Why Black Women Are More Likely to Have Uterine Fibroids

4 South African Women Using Their Voice For Social Justice