10 Ways to Take Action for Menstrual Health Month

10 Ways to Take Action for Menstrual Health Month

Hey Qraters,

May is such an important month, it is Menstrual Health Month. As the Founder and Director of Qrate, menstrual health is a topic that I am extremely passionate about. Did you know that Menstrual Hygiene Day is a day that is commemorated every year on the 28th of May? And did you know that this year it is the 10th anniversary? It is important to understand that we all have a role and responsibility in creating a #PeriodFriendlyWorld to ensure that Period Poverty is a thing of the past. From breaking taboos to ensuring access to essential products, there are numerous ways individuals can contribute to this cause. Here are ten actionable steps you can take to support Menstrual Health Month and make a difference:

  1. Participate in Menstrual Hygiene Day Events: Menstrual Hygiene Day, celebrated on May 28th, is a global initiative to break the silence around menstruation. Attend local events, webinars, or virtual discussions organized by advocacy groups or NGOs. Share your experiences, insights, and learnings to contribute to the conversation using hashtags like #PeriodFriendlyWorld and #MHD. Qrate is hosting a variety of events this month:
    • Qrate, in collaboration with Girls on Bikes, is hosting a social cycling event called Cycle 4 Change on the 25th of May. If you love riding and want to ride with a community, please join us! Follow Girls on Bikes Instagram for updates.
    • On the 28th of May, Qrate in collaboration with The Menstrual Project is hosting its’ first inaugural Flow Forward Annual Event. There will be panel discussions, an art exhibition and a variety of period product stalls. Attendance is free. You can get your tickets here.
  2. Educate Yourself and Others: Knowledge is power. Take the time to educate yourself about menstrual health, hygiene, and related issues. Share reliable information with friends, family, and colleagues to dispel menstruation myths and misconceptions.
  3. Advocate for Policy Change: Advocate for policies prioritising menstrual health and hygiene. Write to policymakers, sign petitions, and support organizations lobbying for menstrual equity, including access to free or subsidized menstrual products in schools, workplaces, and public spaces.
  4. Support Menstrual Product Drives: Donate menstrual products to shelters, schools, or organizations supporting marginalized communities. Period poverty affects millions worldwide, and your contribution can significantly improve access to essential hygiene products. Get your school or work members involved in raising funds to donate period products.
  5. Break the Silence: Break the silence surrounding menstruation by initiating open and honest conversations with friends, family, and peers. Encourage others to share their experiences and concerns without fear of judgment or stigma.
  6. Engage on Social Media: Use your social media platforms to raise awareness about menstrual health and hygiene. Share informative posts, personal stories, and resources to educate and inspire others. Don’t forget to use relevant hashtags like #MenstrualHealthMonth and #PeriodPositive to amplify your message.

7. Create Menstrual Health Art or Content: Express your support for menstrual health through creative means. Create art, poetry, videos, or blog posts highlighting menstrual hygiene’s importance and challenging societal norms and stereotypes.

8. Buy or Make Your Own Menstrual Health Bracelet: As a symbolic gesture of solidarity, create your own menstrual health bracelet. Use 28 beads in total, with 5 red beads representing days of menstruation and 23 white beads symbolizing the average menstrual cycle length. Wear it proudly as a reminder of the ongoing fight for menstrual equity and dignity.

    9. Support Menstrual Health Organizations: Support organizations dedicated to menstrual health and hygiene initiatives. Consider volunteering your time, skills, or resources to help further their mission. Whether assisting with fundraising efforts, volunteering at events, or providing administrative support, your contribution can make a meaningful difference in advancing menstrual equity.

    10. Advocate for Comprehensive Menstrual Education: Advocate for comprehensive menstrual education in schools and communities. Push for inclusive curricula that cover topics such as menstrual hygiene, reproductive health, and gender equality. Encourage schools to provide access to menstrual products in bathrooms and educate both students and teachers about menstrual health in an inclusive and stigma-free manner. By advocating for comprehensive menstrual education, we can empower individuals with the knowledge and resources they need to manage their menstrual health effectively and with dignity.

    Menstrual Health Month provides a valuable opportunity to advocate for change and promote inclusivity in menstrual health and hygiene. By taking action, raising awareness, and supporting those in need, we can contribute to building a more period-friendly world. Let’s work together to ensure that menstruation is no longer a taboo topic but a celebrated aspect of women’s health and well-being. And that’s on PERIOD!

      Silent Struggle: Navigating Endometriosis & Period Pain

      Silent Struggle: Navigating Endometriosis & Period Pain

      by Bontle Moka

      Hey, Qraters!

      Remember the stress you had to deal with at school when they started introducing the alphabet and Greek into mathematics while navigating all the things you were probably experiencing for the first time, like a crush, your first party, or breakouts on your face? Imagine dealing with all that AND the stress of a doctor telling you one day that you might need to fall pregnant as a teenager because you could be faced with a condition that could lead to infertility in the future and that you need to do so before your 21st birthday. It sounds like a Disney princess born with a curse, doesn’t it? 

      Well, dealing with the Pythagoras Theory wasn’t exciting at all, but dealing with painful periods as a young girl was a nightmare and did feel like a curse put on me by some evil wicked witch, at least in hindsight, because at the time I thought it was completely normal and that it was everyone else’s experience. It turns out, almost 15 years after my first period, it was the beginning of a journey of dealing with endometriosis. 

      Photo by Changbok Ko on Unsplash

      As a parent, hearing a doctor tell your teenager that pregnancy might be a cure or solution to painful periods or potential future infertility is not easy. It seems straightforward to simply walk away and dismiss the doctor, but what happens if the doctor is right about the symptoms that eventually could lead to infertility in the future and does? Knowing what to do before it even gets that far can help so many young menstruators, and knowing what to look out for can make a huge difference and hopefully help get an early diagnosis and treatment, or possibly prevent it altogether. 

      For those that don’t know, “Endometriosis is a disease in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus.” It is a whole-body disease that affects over 190 million people worldwide, and some of the symptoms include painful, heavy periods, severe bloating, nausea, fatigue, back, leg, and knee pain, and painful sex, which can lead to infertility. However, as a young girl, one is still getting to know one’s own body, and when you’re told “period equals pain,” you kind of just go with it. At times, you may tolerate more pain than normal, and although pain is common, it is not normal. 

      I remember sharing with friends at times that I dealt with painful periods, but I knew something was quite off because I started my period quite young, and through the years I had seen doctors so frequently, all related to the same thing, something to do with my cycle. It was a painful, tiring, EXPENSIVE experience. Although I found healing through homeopathic remedies, changes in diet and nutrition, various pain medications, and a strengthened walk with God, it is still an uphill battle, and I am still on a healing journey as I still struggle with pain, infertility, and some of the unseen symptoms of this condition. 

      Now, while some period pain and discomfort are normal, it’s important to recognize when your body might be signalling something more. Here’s a quick guide on what to look out for: 

      • Chronic Pelvic Pain with consistent pain that extends beyond menstruation and occurs at other times of the month 
      • Severe and prolonged pain that disrupts daily activities 
      • Heavy bleeding that requires frequent changes of sanitary products
      • Gastrointestinal Issues such as bloating, constipation, or diarrhoea
      • Fatigue that causes unexplained tiredness that persists throughout the menstrual cycle and beyond
      • Any Dizziness, Nausea, or Vomiting 
      • Family History can also play a role, along with the symptoms 
      Signs Your Period Cramps Aren’t Normal by Parents

      It might seem obvious to look out for symptoms that you can easily see, such as a painful period or heavy bleeding, because you might be curled up in a ball during that time, and if not, you might seem cranky because you still have to show up for that math class you’ve probably been dreading, but now you’re worried about the pain, or will there be a leak? Will the painkillers help? All that and managing the hormonal imbalances that you’re not even sure how to deal with yet. However, there is so much more to look out for than what’s on the surface, which is why endometriosis is known as one of the most painful ‘invisible illnesses’, which many consider a disability because of how crippling it can be. The impact is more than just physical, it can cause depression, anxiety, brain fog and so much more, which requires patience, a good support system, encouraging open conversations, and advocating for further investigations such as pelvic exams, ultrasounds, or laparoscopic procedures.

      Early intervention and medical attention are crucial for managing endometriosis effectively. Remember to always keep a detailed account of symptoms; consult a healthcare professional; but don’t rush with treatment options; always get a second and maybe third opinion if you and normalise conversations about your period with friends, family, at home, and school, in different spaces to reduce stigma and create safe spaces for discussions that could help many young menstruaters get the help they need and avoid a long journey or dealing with chronic pain as adults. 

      Written by Bontle Moka.

      Bontle Moka is an Endometriosis Advocate and founder of Endometriosis South Africa. Follow her for insights and personal experiences. Explore her journey and gain valuable perspectives.

      Why RSE Matters

      Why RSE Matters

      Hey, Qraters!

      How many of us learned more about sex from Cosmo than from school? And what would our lives look like if we had comprehensive, reliable, evidence-based sex education?

      The reality is that there are very few places for young people to turn to for judgement-free sex education that is rooted in research and fact. Instead, schools and even the Department of Education’s (DOE) guidelines on sex education focus on abstinence, rather than an empowered, well-informed and inclusive learning outcome in which students can grow healthy self-esteem, advocate for themselves, and grow to nurture healthy relationships with themselves and others. 

      Kelly Sikkema: Unsplash 

      High-quality, clear and comprehensive Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) support young people’s physical and mental well-being as they move toward adulthood. South Africa experiences extraordinary levels of sexual violence, young and unintended pregnancies, and HIV, and was recently listed as the #1 in the world for sexually transmitted infections. Evidence suggests that quality sex education plays a vital role in delaying early sex, preventing transmission of HIV and other STIs, reducing unintended pregnancy, and providing young people with tools to have conversations around consent. It can also support confident disclosure about sexual abuse or exploitation, which is rife in our country.

      Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition: Unsplash

      Another significant impact of RSE involves a greater understanding of students who may exist outside of the gender binary, or who may feel isolated as they discover their sexuality and have no one to discuss it with. RSE can facilitate inclusive conversations around acceptance and diversity, building a better world for everyone.

      It’s also noted that an inclusive approach to RSE can increase body confidence and positivity, strongly combating many of the toxic ideas about body image that are perpetuated in digital spaces. It provides a safe space to ask questions about the many urban myths that exist about sex. Most of all, comprehensive RSE gives us the answer to the question we all ask at some point: am I normal? (The answer is usually yes, yes you are.)

      Many parents and schools fear that talking about sex encourages early sexual exploration, but there’s no evidence to support this. Instead, keeping sex a secret and discouraging the conversation forces young people into unsafe spaces online, exposes them to pornography without any critical literacy, and allows misinformation to spread among peers. A survey in the UK found that a third of young people report learning more about sex from pornography than from formal education. This can lead to risky sexual behaviour and unrealistic attitudes towards sex.

      Li Weibin: Unsplash

      Parents and schools lack the support needed to facilitate these conversations – many of whom were never exposed to evidence-based RSE. Studies show that learners who receive effective relationship and sex education are more likely to disclose sexual abuse, delay sexual debuts, are more likely to have a consensual sexual debut and are more likely to use contraception and condoms, and less likely to have unplanned pregnancies or sexually transmitted infections.

      Qrate is dedicated to providing impactful RSE (Relationships and Sex Education) workshops that empower young individuals with comprehensive and evidence-based knowledge on various aspects, including safer sex practices, consent, fostering healthy relationships, and understanding bodily autonomy. Our mission is to cultivate a generation of informed young people who make conscious and responsible choices regarding their sexual well-being throughout their lives. Our workshops are guided by the principles endorsed by the World Health Organization and are facilitated by certified educators committed to creating a safe and supportive learning environment. To discover more about our RSE offerings, we invite you to inquire today and embark on a journey towards knowledge, empowerment, and confident decision-making.

      Breaking Barriers: Qrate and Siemens Healthineers STEP-UP to deliver Menstrual Health Workshop at Fons Luminis Secondary School

      Breaking Barriers: Qrate and Siemens Healthineers STEP-UP to deliver Menstrual Health Workshop at Fons Luminis Secondary School

      Hello, Qraters!

      On the 20th of November, our commitment to menstrual health education reached new heights as we joined forces with Siemens Healthineers to conduct an enlightening workshop at Fons Luminis Secondary School in Diepkloof, Soweto. This collaboration marked a significant stride towards empowering young minds with knowledge and dismantling menstrual myths.

      Siemens Healthineers South Africa is dedicated to fostering the sustainable progress of our community and its residents. The Healthineers team advocates for a supportive approach rather than a one-time charitable contribution, emphasizing ongoing collaboration in social investments. Teaming up with Siemens Healthineers Step Up initiative allowed the Qrate team to leverage their expertise in health education, creating a dynamic and engaging platform for Fons Luminis Secondary School girls. The collaboration aimed to foster an open dialogue about menstrual health, providing a safe space for 141 young girls to learn, share, and grow.

      The workshop was designed to focus on the fundamental basics of menstrual health. The activities were informative but also fun and interactive, ensuring that the girls were not just passive listeners but active participants in their education. From understanding the menstrual cycle to exploring different period products, the workshop covered a comprehensive range of topics.

      Dispelling myths surrounding menstruation is crucial for fostering a healthy and informed attitude towards this natural bodily process. Through engaging discussions and myth-busting activities, the girls gained insights that will empower them to navigate their menstrual journeys confidently. After the workshop, the Principal of Fons Luminis Secondary School (Mr.Livhuwani Sundani) expressed his heartfelt gratitude for the Qrate workshop sharing his sentiments about the lived realities of school girls and period poverty.

      We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Siemens Healthineers for their unwavering support and commitment to this cause. Together, we’ve planted seeds of knowledge that will undoubtedly blossom into a future where menstrual health is understood, celebrated, and free from stigma. As we reflect on this successful collaboration, we look forward to more opportunities to create positive change, one workshop at a time. Here’s to breaking barriers, shattering myths, and empowering the leaders of tomorrow.

      If you are passionate about menstrual health education and believe in empowering young minds, we welcome collaborations and sponsorships to expand our reach and impact. Let’s work together to make a lasting difference.

      Reach out to us at info@qrate.org.za. Together, let’s continue the journey of education, empowerment, and breaking taboos. Period!

      Unsilencing The Period Talk In Sports

      Unsilencing The Period Talk In Sports

      Hello Qraters!

      Have you ever missed physical education lessons at school or any other sporting commitments because you were on your period?

      The fact is that menstruators across the world are missing out on sports because of their periods due to the inaccessibility of period products, while others have felt self-conscious and embarrassed to participate during their period due to societal stigmas.

      By working to break down harmful period stigma, we can ensure no one has to miss or avoid participating in sports while on their period because having your period should not get in the way of you participating in sports,

      In June, Qrate and Football Without Borders SA collaborated to take a step toward flipping the narrative on menstruation for young South African athletes. The workshop left the young athletes empowered, knowing that they can, too, thrive in the sporting world as menstruators.

      Period Poverty in South African Schools

      Millions of menstruators in South Africa are not able to afford or cannot access period products. This is known as period poverty.

      Respective research conducted in South African Schools by the Menstrual Hygiene Management and The Borgen Project found that:

      • 83% of menstruating learners do not have regular access to menstrual hygiene products both at school and at home;
      • 1 in 4 learners (who menstruate) miss school monthly because they lack access to menstrual hygiene products and support during their menstrual periods;
      • An estimated 30% of South African menstruators do not attend school while they are on their period because they do not have sanitary products.

      How Does Period Poverty Affect Sports Participation?

      The statistics above in South African schools reflect the realities that menstruators face across society. Menstruators play on an uneven playing field due to existing period stigmas, period product inequality, and inaccessibility. This translates to missed training, missed competitions, and increased dropouts of menstruators in sports. In summary, these are MISSED OPPORTUNITIES and LOST POTENTIAL for millions of girls, and women.

      What Can We Learn From Football Without Borders SA?

      Our workshop with Football Without Borders SA was a special one because it was telling that there are sports clubs and organisations that are making efforts to provide and integrate menstrual health education for their athletes to ensure that menstruators have a safe and comfortable environment. Not only is menstrual education important for the athletes but also for the coaches and staff members to understand how to support menstruators.

      The more we can start normalising menstrual conversations and education in sports, the easier it will be to spread support. If we start talking more openly about periods – a menstruator who might be struggling with their period would be more open to seek support from their parents, coaches, or staff members to get help and advice.

      Sparking conversations about menstruation health enables us to celebrate what women on their periods have achieved, and helps to break taboos while opening the door for an important mindset shift in sports regarding periods. The more conversations we can have about periods in sports, the easier it can become to set setting higher standards for girls and women in sports to be protected and supported.

      Did You Know That Qrate Is On A Nationwide Period Positive Tour? 🩸

      Qrate is on a period tour all across South Africa. If any schools or youth organisations would like to get involved or be a part of the period positive tour, please email info@qrate.co.za