SWB on why period shame has to stop. Period.

Saturday Shout Out for ‘Shared Threads’

This week I’m on about periods. What’s that you say? Periods, really? Again? Well hell yes, because for once I’m not just whinging on about my own (and the flipping big massive nuisance that they are) but I’m chatting about my epic friend Kirsty King who founded the charity Shared Threads’. Wait til I tell you: Kirsty is a SUPERSTAR. Initial impressions would lead you to believe that Kirsty is mild and unassuming. But not a bit of it- this woman has a core of steel and grit like you could never imagine.  When she learnt that millions of girls worldwide miss weeks of school every year because when they have periods, Kirsty decided that she couldn’t sit on her hands and do nothing. And so began ‘Shared Threads’- a collective of women AND MEN who make recyclable sanitary cloths and send them to India. This initiative is not just about giving girls their own bag of period  pads- it’s so much more than that. It’s telling them that they are valued; that they deserve respect and that there is no shame attached to their bodies, not during their periods or at any other time.

Here in Northern Ireland we don’t much like talking about periods. I know this because I talk about mine all the time. I find it’s quite a useful way of shutting down a conversation if it gets a bit tedious. People, especially men, move along swiftly when you mention PMT or a crampy tummy. The Mothership gets very irritated when I write about mine on the blog. I can almost guarantee that she will lift the phone sharpish to tell me that no one wants to hear about my menstrual cycle, or my mood swings. ‘Too much information!’ she will say.

So imagine growing up in a country where there is a huge stigma attached to the female body and its cycles. I don’t think I’d cope very well. In certain parts of India, periods remain a taboo subject and because many young girls have no access to pads they then miss out on going to school. This is why Kirsty joined forces with an NGO who distribute pads and provide information in areas where this is likely to occur, thus alleviating the confusion and anxiety felt by these girls.

On International Women’s Day I joined Kirsty at her workshop in Portview Trade Centre to see every stage of the making process and see how I could get involved. I have a great aversion to sewing machines as I am risk adverse and they require far too much concentration. Happily, for the likes of me there are other ways I could contribute and I was given the infinitely easier job of cutting up towels which form the absorbent part of the pad. I took a bag of towels home with me that day and cut them up over the course of a few evenings.

During Lockdown, work didn’t stop for Kirsty, as her team of volunteers continued to snip, stitch and sign hand-written notes, staying in contact and dropping off their handiwork at each other’s doorsteps. I asked her for a few more bags of towels and she gathered up some for me. Since then some of my friends have taken a few towels each and snipped away. It occurred to me then that we could to get together of an evening when it was safe to do so, and a jolly soirée was had. We called it a ‘Cutting Party’, which sounds like some sort of tribal ritual but just meant that a small group of us  sipped while we snipped at my table in the garden. I do love an activity- I think conversation flows (pardon the pun) better when your hands are busy.

 

Everything about Shared Threads excites me. I love how, with the exception of the PUL (a waterproof fabric that is used in the pads), everything is made from second-hand material. I love how by repurposing household items we are reducing waste, and by switching to cloth pads there is ultimately less plastic in the ocean. Over the last year I’ve been using a mixture of cloth pads and period pants and it makes me feel better that I’m contributing less to plastic pollution- especially in the throes of this pandemic when the PPE is flooding all our landfill sites, and ‘reusable’ doesn’t seem to be a thing anymore. (I’m not saying it isn’t necessary, just that it’s happening right now and if we could off-set it in any way then that would be good).

So I’d like to direct you over to Kirsty’s fabulous blog where you can learn all about her endeavours, see how you can help and perhaps even consider becoming a patron so she can keep doing this for as long as women need it. We need to put an end to period poverty, and this is one glorious way to go about it.

(I think what really makes these pictures is my banjaxed shed as a backdrop.)

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