16th May 2022
At the start of Women’s History Month, and to celebrate International Women’s Day, the Help the Homeless Society hosted a period packing event. I was curious to go along, as I’d never attended anything like this before.
Developed as a collaboration between The Period Project Merseyside, UoL Feminist Society and LJMU Feminist Society, this event clearly had a lot of love and care go into it. The atmosphere felt safe, fun, and friendly from the get-go, with a great turnout of people. Even refreshments were provided. Let me tell you: for a broke student, a free cup of tea and a couple of biscuits go a long way!
The evening began with an inspirational talk from Natalie Denny. Natalie is passionate about grassroots activism, and chairs The Period Project Merseyside. This not-for-profit, volunteer-run organisation has two main goals: to end period stigma, and to ensure that those who need menstrual products have them.
Sometimes, it’s not until norms are highlighted that we realise how often society fails to consider people who menstruate. For example, we learned that 70% of girls aren’t allowed to go to the toilet during the school day. This comment received a fair few nodding heads, including my own. How can somebody be denied the right to go to the toilet, especially when they may literally be bleeding through their school uniform?
Natalie also drew attention to the word ‘sanitary’, as in ‘sanitary pads’ and ‘sanitary products’. The phrase was originally introduced as a marketing technique. But Natalie pushes for alternative terminology to be used, such as ‘menstrual products’. Why? Because there’s nothing ‘unsanitary’ about a period! The word does nothing but create unwarranted shame.
As for the period packing, a mountain of donated, sealed menstrual products took up an entire table. From there, we were encouraged to get picking pads and tampons of various different sizes to put inside red paper bags. I loved this little touch, as instead of predicting someone else’s flow, it’s a lot nicer to give the recipient of the bag options. Along with these products, were wipes, deodorant spray cans, panty liners, knickers, and chocolate bars (’cause everyone should be able to have a bit of chocolate when on their period).
Once assembled, we got to write an International Women’s Day note to pop in the bag to the stranger who would receive it. By now, you might be wondering who actually receives these bags. The Period Project Merseyside pride themselves on inclusivity and accessibility. This means that they don’t turn anyone away that DMs them needing products.
It truly touched me how many bags were packed in so little time. This was just one example of how a group of people who truly care can make amazing things happen when they come together.
The Period Project Merseyside receive a fair few donations but unfortunately they can’t accept unsealed products. So what do they do to reduce waste and give these unusable products a purpose? They turn them into art, duh!
In the opposite room to the period packing event, one could find a whole host of artsy bits and bobs. There was glitter glue, paint, pom-poms, stick-on gems, felt tips – you name it. And the star of the show? Maxi menstrual pads!
Attendees were encouraged to get thinking of all the period idioms that they’ve heard in their lives. To name a few:
We were then encouraged to write out our chosen idiom onto a maxi pad! Whilst pretty funny, these idioms conceal what is actually a very normal thing that half the population experience. So let’s get better at simply saying “I’m on my period”, and end period stigma together.
The Period Project Merseyside have just reached their 6th Birthday, and Chair Natalie hopes they won’t need to be around for their 10th. Information on donating to them can be found here.
Interested in getting involved in more events like these? Follow these wonderful organisations’ Instagrams to keep up to date:
Featured Image Credit: The Author