Aidex Voices

This is the global initiative bringing together activists for a live discussion on tackling menstrual health and hygiene taboos.

In response to demand from women’s rights and sexual and reproductive health and rights activists (SRHR), UNAIDS, UN Women and various civil society organisations, a new global initiative #BeTeamWomen was formed.Through strong partnership and collaboration, the group could effectively harness the diverse expertise of their individual networks and converge agendas, in order to build a stronger and more united movement.

Intersectionality – the concept that cultural patterns of oppression are bound together and influenced by systems across society, lies at the heart of this collective cause. The intersecting issues which heighten women and girl’s vulnerability to HIV, violence and other adverse SRHR outcomes must be tackled together if they are to be overcome.

To commemorate the International Day of the Child, #BeTeamWomen have organised a Facebook Live event on the topic of ‘Periods, Pads and Power’. This discussion sets out to level the playing field for activists and advocates across locations around the world – from London to a remote area in Kwazulu Natal – by connecting social justice and SRHR actors across generations, movements and varied socio-economic communities.


Panellists taking part in the #BeTeamWomen Facebook Live discussion

With a TedTalk-style and live Q&A combination, the discussion allowed for real-time interactions from viewers which will in-turn enable the rapid mobilisation of people’s feedback and thoughts around current issues. This year’s theme, ‘With Her: A Skilled GirlForce’ will highlight the problems around menstrual health and hygiene and consider how we can fight the taboo and stigma that comes with it, such as tampons not being used by girls who believe it can take their virginity.

Speaking on behalf of UNAIDS, Programme Officer at the organisation Kreena Govender said:

‘With the Periods, Pads and Power discussion we want to support this much needed movement to lift the discussion on menstruation, period poverty, a time when women’s bodies are considered to be “polluting and unclean”, taboo and stigma into the area of mainstream dialogue on a very natural reproductive health process. Often the same stigma and discrimination, shame and control around women and girls’ SRHR drives the HIV epidemic among them.’

Panellist Sophia Grinvalds, Founder and Director of AFRIpands reiterated:

‘The onset of puberty should not simultaneously mark the end of schooling or a monthly experience of indignity and shame and stigma.’

To date, #BeTeamWomen have hosted seven Facebook Live discussions on topics that explored gender, transactional sex and HIV, which have reached over 50,000 people and had over 10,000 views. The latest live chat received over 1,000 views and reached almost 5,000 people

Discussion highlights

Menstruation is irrefutably integral to our sexual and reproductive health, which is why #BeTeamWomen Moderator Ebony Johnson stressed the point that accessing the necessary services, tools and resources are part of our human rights.

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AFRIpads Sophia Grinvalds with students during the discussion

Winny Obure, of Teenseed Africa in Kenya, emphasised the importance of bringing boys into the conversation to help combat and demystify menstrual taboos. Ugandan school girl Suliyana, added that she believes schools should host clubs specifically around mental health to teach both sexes about the essential subject in order to prevent girls from dropping out of school due to the embarrassment of having their period. According to Charlotte from Joy for Children, some girls miss almost a month, and 25% miss a school term because of being on their periods.

On a more positive note, gender rights advisor from India, Archana Patkar highlighted the exciting news that Kenya has finalised the world’s first dedicated, holistic menstrual hygiene policy.

"To all the women around the world, the one thing that unites us is our menstruation. Menstruation cannot be something that puts us down. Red is powerful. Be proud, be confident.” - Winny Obure, Teenseed Africa

With 1.8 billion women from all different kinds of backgrounds around the world menstruating right now, the panellists were in consensus that periods have the power to be a unifying force.

Click here to visit the #BeTeamWomen Facebook page to view all of their past discussions.