For Students, by Students: Menstruation Nation and The Diva Cup
One winter afternoon, while scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed of cat videos and selfies, a CBC News article caught my eye. It described The Period Purse, a grassroots organization that provides marginalized communities with access to free menstrual products while reducing the stigma surrounding periods through menstrual equity. Though I had never personally considered the obstacles marginalized menstruators face on a monthly basis, as a menstruator, I was inspired to organize a menstrual product drive benefiting The Period Purse at my school. While the giant box marked, "Tampons and Pads," in the school foyer initially lead to some trepidation and discomfort amongst students and staff, my enthusiasm and unapologetic promotion of the drive proved infectious.
Later that spring, I attended my first Packing Party in support of The Period Purse. I brought with me the product my school had collected. Volunteers danced, passed products, filled purses, carried boxes and crushed cardboard for two hours - all for menstruators in need. I left that evening feeling energized and inspired, knowing my work with The Period Purse had just begun. However, I couldn't have predicted this would also mark the beginning of the Menstruation Nation (MN).
The MN is a spirited, positive and supportive group of students that raises awareness about menstrual equity, challenges the stigma surrounding menstruation and empowers local menstruators in the community.
The MN began in October 2017, after my second pad and tampon drive at school. Thinking it would be fun if a few of my friends accompanied me to an upcoming Packing Party, I RSVPd for four of us. Word spread and soon, another four friends registered, then six more. Suddenly, there were 14 girls from my school attending The Period Purse's October Packing Party. There, we worked with people who, despite differences in identities and ages, shared a love of helping others. The Packing Party was empowering, energizing and so much fun!
Alas, the Menstruation Nation was born.
Our ever-growing group continued to gather at Packing Parties. Later, our MN held an additional drive and hosted a Packing Party of our own. Jana Girdauskas, Founder of The Period Purse, came to talk about her journey as part of our school's Community Week. Then, a special relationship cultivated between my school and The Period Purse. It showed me the power of young people when working together, tackling inequity. I saw how the MN empowered students to advocate for themselves and others while fostering peer to peer, individual to community and student to teacher education. Given the support and enthusiasm from students, teachers and parents for this cause, Jana and I soon realized the MN belonged at every school.
We worked on the official Menstruation Nation Program and Handbook, challenging our volunteers and prospective supporters to start their very own MN chapter. Like we did at my school, the MN Program and Handbook outlines how to host drives, Packing Parties and start a conversation surrounding menstrual health with like-minded students and educators.
Since the MN launched, the program has grown from one Toronto high school to multiple institutions across Canada.
Today, the MN continues to lay the foundation for a student-focused extension of another initiative surrounding period health, sustainability and education, The Period Purse's Diva Cup Program. The pilot begins at my high school, where the MN program began. A total of 50 Diva Cups will be donated to young menstruators like me!
Throughout this journey, here is what I've learned: The work of my MN peers has helped disenfranchised menstruators in our community feel confident and stay healthy. It has also challenged the negative stigma surrounding menstruation at our school, making people ask questions and have positive conversations about periods. It has allowed us to act on equity and think creatively about healthy and sustainable solutions for disenfranchised menstruators. It has sparked an enduring, genuine passion for menstrual equity and community engagement in our members. So, we want to do more!
The MN has inspired us to achieve a world that is both equitable and compassionate. At The Period Purse, and through these programs, we achieve this goal one purse, one school, one conversation and one student at a time.
Interested in starting a Menstruation Nation chapter at your school? Email me today at firstname.lastname@example.org.