Archive for the ‘Activism & Politics’ Category

Stephanie Nolen: a shero among sheros

Thursday, November 13th, 2014 by Madeleine

It’s not every day that you get to meet one of your all-time heroes, but it happened to me just last weekend when journalist Stephanie Nolen was briefly in Vancouver.

2014 11 09 14.01.56 1024x7641 300x226 Stephanie Nolen: a shero among sherosThanks to my Mother’s influence I have been a Globe and Mail reader for most of my life. Stephanie’s writing first came to my attention when she donned a hijab and headed to out to cover the invasion of Afghanistan and fall of the Taliban.

Her knack for illustrating a macro-truth based on one person’s story immediately moved me, as well as her particular interest in the situation of girls and women. She was my kind of hero: brave, hugely talented, social justice-minded and up for adventure. As I said to Suzanne at the time, if I wasn’t already lucky enough to get to be me, I’d want to be Stephanie.

Speaking last weekend at a gathering hosted by 60 Million Girls, a Canadian charity that takes its name from the number of girls deprived of education in the developing world, Stephanie chose to focus on the story of some remarkable students and one determined activist at two unique schools in rural Bihar state in Northern India, taking as her starting point how “laughter and dignity”, as much as careers, independence and a wealthier and healthier life, are what girls miss out on when denied access to schooling. (The full story, including multiple feature articles and audi slideshows, are here.)

It was a point that landed well with the audience of seasoned leaders, educators and philanthropists already well aware of the benefits of educating girls. Stephanie first encountered the Prerna School for Mahadalit girls and its intrepid founder Sudha Varghese thanks to a tip from a friend. Following a lengthy search, she finally pushed open an unassuming gate and witnessed a rare sight in rural India: a green schoolyard of laughing, playing girls. The girls greeted her with a polite salutation before carrying on with their games, itself highly unusual for a tall, lone, female foreigner who typically drew curious crowds, not to mention low-caste girls, who would normally have shied away.

2014 11 09 15.30.25 300x2241 300x228 Stephanie Nolen: a shero among sherosIn and of themselves a rarity in India in general, these particular schoolgirls were an especially unlikely find, being as they are from the bottom of India’s caste system (“Mahadalit” basically translates as “lowest of the low”). “These girls have basically lost the global lottery,” in terms of social privilege, she explained, and was astounded to find an entire school dedicated to nourishing and educating them.

She went on to share Sudha’s story of determining to become as nun as one of the few ways to lead an independent life as a woman, learning of the plight of the Dalit people (also commonly known as “untouchable”) and determining to do what she could to support the most marginalized among them: girls.

Prerna means “inspiration”: the name of the school she founded on a shoestring in 2006, and inspiring indeed is the tale of how one woman has singlehandedly created two schools that now house and educate almost 200 girls. One of the most striking curriculum items is karate, a program where the girls have excelled to the point of winning local, state and even competitions in Japan!

Despite this extraordinary success, there are still massive challenges to be faced: often Prerna students are forced to get married when they return home to see their families, a common practice among their unschooled peers. Stephanie explained that while to Westerners the technically illegal practice of marrying off girls under 18 (most are married by the time they are 13) seems patently barbaric, to their parents it is doing their best to protect their daughters’ futures. Furthermore, while the Prerna girls may be getting an education, the rest of their society still sees them as inferior by virtue of both class and gender: what opportunities will they realistically have?

Lakshmi wants to be a judge, and Gunia, a teacher. Thanks to people like Sudha and Stephanie, they are far closer to those worthy goals than they ever would have been otherwise. Here’s hoping that they are the tip of a massive landslide of educated girls who fulfill the promise of the “Incredible India!” tourist billboards. Oh and hey: it only costs $200 to support one of Sudha’s students for a year. Email Stephanie if you want to help: snolen@globeandmail.com.

 

Margaret Cho Rocks Lunapads

Friday, November 7th, 2014 by Suzanne

lunagalscho 1024x882 Margaret Cho Rocks Lunapads

Madeleine and I have a lot to be thankful for for these days. One of the #1 reasons Lunapads has been a success is due to the hard work, dedication and brilliant minds behind our team. So, when I heard that Margaret Cho was coming to Vancouver, it seemed like a great way to thank the gang for their efforts and go on a Lunapads Staff outing! We adore Margaret for her fierce talent and vocal support of women and LGBTQ rights. Plus, she’s kick ass funny as hell.

Leading up to the event, we used Twitter to reach out to Margaret, who is not shy about talking about vaginas and periods. We wondered “does she know about our products” and “is she a fan”? We could only hope. She replied to one of our tweets with the hashtag #giftbasket. Ready with a gift basket full of Lunapads goodies, we wondered “How will we get it to her? Will it happen during the show”?

The big event finally arrived, and we eagerly gathered in our seats. The opening act featured actress/comedian/dancer Selene Luna, who immediately treaded into a topical conversation about sex and consent. Right now in Canada, we are reading stories daily about the evolving scandal around Jian Ghomeshi. As uncomfortable as the subject and jokes were, both Selene and Margaret shared very personal stories about their own experiences of sexual abuse and expressed their anger against those who perpetrate violence.

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Hello Flo’s Unhappy Period Party

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014 by Madeleine

helloflo first moon party period commercial1 Hello Flos Unhappy Period Party

Monthly subscription period providers Hello Flo have done it again, creating yet another provocative and hilarious video about menarche, the sequel to last summer’s hit “Camp Gyno“.

For all of its gumption and hilarious one-liners, the new video also made me a bit sad. Maybe it’s because I’m still coming down from an incredible high with the successful launch of G Day on April 28th. While not explicitly a “First Moon Party”, G Day was definitely a rite of passage celebration for adolescent girls, inspired by my desire to have the specialness of menarche honoured in my own life back in the day. It was so amazing to see 250 girls together celebrating this uniquely magical time of life: watching them revel in it was one of the highlights of my life.

The Hello Flo video troubled me not so much for its problematic portrayal of mother-daughter relations, as NPR commentator Laurel Dalrymple explores in her poignant article, Meanstruation: HelloFlo’s Mother-Daughter War is Funny, and Sad (although I can absolutely see where she is coming from on that front). At the root of this, for me at least, is some resentment that the idea of a menarche celebration is being mocked, making yet another hefty contribution to the period-as-joke trope. Jokes can lead to shame, and shame is the last thing that any of us, particularly girls, need: they’re getting enough BS messages about their bodies as it is. The subtext  of the video seems to be: what could be more dreadful than your Mom organizing some form of celebration of the onset of your period?

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Why #MenstruationMatters to us at Lunapads

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014 by Lunapads Team

mm Why #MenstruationMatters to us at Lunapads

You know that you’re really getting somewhere when there’s an “official” day about your cause. For us, that day has finally arrived!

According to their website, Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28th) “will help to break the silence and build awareness about the fundamental role that good menstrual hygiene management (MHM) plays in enabling women and girls to reach their full potential.”

After over 20 years of trying to get this simple yet woefully underrepresented message out into the world, I am so thrilled to hear this. Our friends at WASH United are behind this excellent initiative, complete with all the bells and whistles to propel the issue to worldwide attention: an infographic, Action Toolkit, and social media campaign: #menstruationmatters.

In the spirit of the day, we thought that we’d address why #menstruationmatters to us at Lunapads. Here are a few of our thoughts:

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Celebrating Menstrual Hygiene Day with The DivaCup

Friday, May 2nd, 2014 by Lunapads Team

mhmday Celebrating Menstrual Hygiene Day with The DivaCup

Help us reach our goal of providing AFRIpads kits to 500 girls in East Africa. For the month of May, Diva International has generously agreed to boost our One4Her program to provide an entire AFRIpads kit for every DivaCup purchased at Lunapads.com. Already have a DivaCup? Then tell your friends! It’s time to make the switch or buy one for your friend today!

Menstrual Hygiene Day is on May 28, 2014, but we’ll be celebrating all month long by helping improve access to sustainable menstrual products for girls in East Africa. We’ve partnered with Diva International to expand our One4Her program and donate an AFRIpads kit (2 pads with 5 inserts, plus 1 carrying bag) for every DivaCup sold on Lunapads.com during the month of May. Each kit provides a girl with a sustainable supply of cloth pads to manage her period for over a year.

Since 2002, Lunapads has been operating Pads4Girls, a program that addresses an issue faced by hundreds of millions of girls and women in developing nations: missing school or work for several days every month because they lack adequate means to manage their periods. Providing girls with sustainable menstrual supplies is a simple yet highly effective way to give them a chance for a better future.

afripads Celebrating Menstrual Hygiene Day with The DivaCup

Taking our commitment a step further, in 2012 Lunapads partnered with AFRIpads, a social enterprise in Uganda, to create One4Her, where for every One4Her product sold online, Lunapads matches that purchase by financing the production and distribution of a Ugandan-made AFRIpad to a girl in East Africa.

The Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) issue in the developing world is a complex one, where many product and educational options are being explored. What makes One4Her unique is that, in addition to providing a proven, easy-to-use, cost effective solution, it also supports employment in Africa. This is why Diva International has partnered with Lunapads & AFRIpads to provide cloth pads to girls in need.

Please help spread the word about the importance of MHM and tell your friends to make the switch to The DivaCup!

click to tweet: I just got a @DivaCup from @Lunapads. They’re donating @AFRIpads to a girl for every cup sold! http://lunapads.com/divacup.html #Diva500

click to tweet: My @DivaCup purchase from @Lunapads helps girls stay in school. What does yr menstrual product do? http://lunapads.com/divacup.html #Diva500

click to tweet: A @DivaCup 4me = @AFRIpads 4her. Get yrs at @Lunapads this month & make a difference for 500 girls http://lunapads.com/divacup.html #Diva500

The joy of personal liberation

Monday, April 14th, 2014 by Madeleine

madsleft The joy of personal liberationOne of the greatest gifts that switching from tampons to Lunapads and the DivaCup (in addition to all of the obvious things that we are always talking about) has given me is the inspiration to question all kinds of personal and consumer choices that we often take for granted as necessary or inevitable.

For some women, casting aside caring about others’ opinions of them, or even the notion of being a woman at all, can open up whole new worlds of freedom and self-expression.

I have been enjoying the Raw Beauty Talks campaign, where Vancouver social entrepreneur Erin Treloar has been photographing local women without makeup, and pairing the portraits with frank interviews about photoshop, “inner beauty” and how we navigate judgement about appearance.

As someone who uses some makeup pretty much every day, I have been moved by beholding the real faces of many women that I know, effectively “seeing” them for the first time, and reconsidering my own choices as a result. Am I “empowered” in my choices around my appearance, or a still-deluded consumer too shamed to accept myself in my natural state?

While I’m not ready to give up my mascara and mineral powder just yet, there are many other related choices that I have become conscious of since I discovered that I didn’t “need” disposable menstrual products. I still remember the first time I passed by the “feminine paper” aisle in the drugstore in my post-tampon euphoria: I felt so free, like I didn’t have to believe a particularly pernicious lie anymore. In what other ways does the Emperor have no clothes?, I wondered.

What about the practice of hair dyeing and removal? Most women that I know dye or at least highlight their hair, as I did for many years. I still remember the burning sensation at my roots as I tried to do what is still taken for granted as a rationale: conceal the inevitable grey. I have been proudly and happily dye-free for 8 years and feel fantastic about it. When asked what my hair colour is, my joke has become that I have no idea and honestly don’t care. (For a longer, excellent read on the hair topic, head over to our friend Marnie Goldenberg’s blog.)

What if I could feel the same way about the crows feet around my eyes, the scars on my belly, my post-nursing breasts, and acne-pocked skin? How great would that be?

I know other women who have “let themselves off the hook” (literally!) by ditching bras, or at least those with underwire. Others say no to waxing, dieting, nylons, skinny jeans, thong underwear or high heels, just to name a few. What standard “beauty rap” have you let go of (or do you embrace?) Here’s my “off the hook” list: lipstick, hair dye, waxing, high heels, nylons. And still going there (for now): teeth whitening, picky haircut, eyebrow maintenance, eye makeup, the odd facial.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that “beauty” maintenance is necessarily bad. Some women I know love their high heels, for example: they make them feel powerful. Right on, Sister! The point is to become more conscious about whether or not something is a true, freely-made choice that supports your fabulousness, or just something that you do because of a false, unquestioned belief (who would want to look old if they could help it, right?) that doesn’t actually serve you (or anyone, for that matter). Maybe one day I’ll find the perfect pair of heels, discover that tooth whiteneing is toxic, or decide to cut my hair short or dye it purple, who knows? In the meantime, I’m just going to keep checking in to see what feels good to me today.

Ageism is rampant in our society, and nowhere is it visited more harshly than upon women. Look beautiful, stay beautiful, fight ageing: this is what we’re told. How about this instead: love, accept, care for and celebrate yourself in whatever ways serve you, free yourself and others from judgement, and seek joy and liberation in whatever forms they take for you.

Healthy Periods: A Doctor’s Global Perspective

Thursday, April 10th, 2014 by Guest

Guest blogger Saki Onda is a Masters of Public Health student in the global health department at the Harvard School of Public Health.

smbiophoto Healthy Periods: A Doctors Global Perspective

The ability to manage our menses safely, comfortably, and with dignity is a luxury that most women and girls in industrialized countries take for granted.

My personal experience with menstruation has always been a positive one – around the age of eight my mother sat me down to explain periods and cooked sekihan or ‘red rice’ when I did reach menarche. In my home country of Japan, this steamed sticky rice and azuki bean dish is prepared on special occasions that call for celebration – one of which is when a girl reaches menarche, although this custom is less frequently practiced nowadays.

Being of Japanese origin but having grown up in international communities in the U.S., France, and the U.K., I have become aware of varying attitudes, practices, and taboos towards menstruation. As a physician and current Master of Public Health student with a focus on reproductive health, menstrual hygiene management (MHM) has become an area of growing interest.

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Why Inclusion Matters.

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 by Lisa

abstractsquares Why Inclusion Matters.

Hi everybody, Lisa here. In 2011, I wrote a blog post called Lunapads for All Genders All Bodies to express my views about the inadequacies of, and harm caused by, a gender essentialist approach to periods and bodies — and to share my hopes for a more nuanced, affirming and inclusive dialogue about menstruation.

Lacy’s message below highlights their lived experience as an agender person navigating their period while contending with marketing messages and products that are heavily gendered in ways that are upsetting and incongruent to who they are. I wanted to share Lacy’s story to demonstrate that inclusion is not just a nice ideal to have, but something that actually matters in people’s everyday lives.

If you’re trans, nonbinary, or gender non-conforming and have questions, resources, or feedback to share (or you just want to say hi!), feel free to get in touch with me anytime at lisa@lunapads.com. Thanks, everyone. ♥

hello! i’m an agender person (i prefer they/them pronouns) and i just wanted to say how refreshing and appreciated it was to see an acknowledgment from a company selling “feminine” hygiene products that it’s not only females who have periods. though it’s a little thing, it gets tiring to hear the “only women get periods/periods are a part of being a girl” spiel every time i see an ad for pads or tampons. seeing your website not only acknowledge that periods aren’t female-exclusive (and that not all females have them, or have the parts to have them) was truly a breath of fresh air, and gave me a sense of relief.

i’ve always found that my dysphoria with my body was worse when i was on my period, but i recently discovered that my period itself wasn’t the issue! what was causing me so much gender discomfort and stress was the constant insistence that the products i was using are only for females and female parts. it came from all directions- the products themselves, their commercials, their labeling of “feminine hygiene” in the grocery- and it was enough to make me feel like a stranger in my own body. though it was frustrating and upsetting, i accepted it as something that just wasn’t going to change, and tried to ignore it.

however, earlier today, i talked with a friend about my frustrations with regular pads and tampons (the bleached cotton makes me break out) and she recommended me to your site. she says she’s used your products for years and has never been disappointed, so i figured why not give it a look. i did, and not only was i extremely impressed with your products (and i plan to buy some next paycheck!), but i was moved to actual tears after reading the bit you included on people who weren’t cis women using your products. to see a company like yours treat menstruation as something that not only women (and not all women!) experience is so refreshing, and i can’t express how much it means to me personally.

thank you so much for this step forward in inclusiveness!
-Lacy

update: i just finished my first period with lunapads and it was an incredible experience. i didn’t have to deal with the breakouts i usually get during my period- which confirms, for me, that it was definitely caused by the disposable pads i wore. better yet, lunapads gave me a way to handle my period on my own terms, without having to walk through the feminine hygiene section and feel out of place.

i felt at home and at peace with my period, and they were so soft that i’m looking forward to using them again. thank you so much for all your kindness! i’m thankful to have found such a caring person in such a wonderful company!

Further Reading:
Lunapads for All Genders, All Bodies
Trans-inclusive language in a menstrual health blog
No, I won’t ask about your period. Yes, you can tell me about it.
Endometriosis and Transgender: Beyond Gendered Reproductive Health
Trans Men’s Health is a “Women’s Health” Issue: Expanding the Boundaries of Sexual & Reproductive Health Care
Of Menstruation and Manhole Covers

Kitty’s 24 Birthday Wishes for Pads4Girls

Thursday, February 13th, 2014 by Kitty

mainphoto Kittys 24 Birthday Wishes for Pads4GirlsI have been a part of the Lunapads community for two years now, and throughout that time, I have witnessed countless people taking an active role in empowering girls in developing nations. Whether it be donations through AFRIpads, or distributions through personal travels, I have always itched to do my part. With this inspiration, partnered with the idea of charity birthdays, I dedicated my 23rd in raising 23 Pads4Girls kits. At the time, I had no idea which organization to direct the funds to and where to donate the pad kits. As life would have it, the opportunity came up for me to personally connect with and distribute these pad kits to girls living in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The organization I worked with, Save Lives Ethiopia, is a not-for-profit which focuses on providing AIDS-stricken orphans of Ethiopia with a supportive and loving environment to live in. These kids are placed with family members, such as their aunts and uncle, and Save Lives will support the family and children with food, education, health care, and social support through regular check-ups from community nurses. The love and support from family members is so important in terms of shaping a child’s growth. This value was emphasized when I spoke with the Executive Director of Save Lives, Frehiwot Alebachew, and has resonated with me ever since.

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Announcing G Day for Girls!

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 by Madeleine

Telling you about G Day feels like a combination of my birthday, a weekend and every holiday I’ve ever anticipated. It’s a new creative project that I have had in my heart and mind since I was a little girl.

As a girl, I was awed by the idea of becoming an adult woman. Like Margaret in Judy Blume’s classic Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, I was obsessed with all the details, particularly menstruation, and on a semiconscious level I hoped that there would be some sort of fanfare when the momentous time came.

The obvious aside, nothing happened, and I was left with a sense of deep disappointment. Not that I could have told you what exactly I had imagined might happen – I just wanted other people to acknowledge in some way that what was happening to me was special, because I sure thought it was.

I was reminded of these feelings early last year, when I was invited to speak at Pecha Kucha Night Vancouver as part of a Special Edition created in partnership with Women Transforming Cities. At first I thought it was a bit weird to be thinking about my work in an urban context, and then I remembered my girlhood dream, and landed on the idea of creating modern Red Tents where we could bring our daughters to celebrate them when they entered adolescence.

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