Monday 26 February 2024

Addressing Period Poverty with Our Short Film, FLOW


By Ruth Ajawu

Let us talk about something that affects millions of women and girls worldwide but often remains shrouded in silence and stigma: period poverty and shame. Period poverty is a deeply troubling issue that extends beyond the mere absence of sanitary products. It encompasses a broader spectrum of challenges, including the lack of knowledge and understanding about menstruation that perpetuates harmful stigmas and the promotion of periods as unclean and something to be ashamed of.

In various parts of the world, especially in low-income communities, girls and women face significant barriers when it comes to managing their menstruation. The financial constraints that lead to the inability to afford sanitary products are just one aspect of period poverty. Equally alarming is the pervasive lack of education surrounding menstrual health, perpetuating myths and misconceptions that contribute to the shame and silence surrounding menstruation.

Shades of Us is joining millions of activists and advocates to shine a light on this crucial issue and is doing this through FLOW, a short film that is about period poverty, and the pressing need to promote empowerment, dignity, and resilience when it comes to periods. 

Our journey with FLOW began when Shades of Us was selected as one of six winners of a $500 grant out of over 3,000+ applicants for the Giving Joy Grant for our Mobile Cinema concept which has FLOW as one of the movies in our approach. This grant made up 40% of our production and screening cost and presented us with the incredible opportunity to bring FLOW to fruition. 

Since August 2023, the entire team has poured their hearts into this project. We started with a script development workshop in September 2023 and wrote the script's first draft in November 2023. Filming took place on February 10 and 11, 2024, capturing the essence of our message: ‘Period no be shameful thing’ and there are renewable options available for women who cannot afford disposable sanitary hygiene products. 

During this time, we reached out to multiple organizations working on menstrual health because we believe that we do not necessarily have to reinvent the wheel: partnerships are always more important for achieving the global goals.

Four organizations saw our idea and decided to partner with us: Women Impacting Nigeria (WIN), Wildhearts Africa Foundation, Stand With A Girl Initiative (SWAG), and Strong Enough Girls Empowerment Initiative (SEGEI). 

WIN is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to women’s human rights, gender, and empowerment of women and girls. WIN is on a mission to reduce the gender gaps that exist in education, living conditions, economic empowerment, technology, and political participation in Nigeria. WIN believes that women's empowerment and gender equality are critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). WIN wants women to lead, participate in government systems, have a decent livelihood, income security, economic autonomy, and live free from violence.

WildHearts Foundation Africa was founded to keep girls in school through the distribution of safe, reusable sanitary products. In partnership with Old Mutual Insure and The Document Warehouse South Africa, the initiative has reached thousands of girls across the country. They plan to expand into neighboring countries through the continued support of their customers and partners.

SWAG Initiative is a non-profit organization that is committed to empowering and educating girls and young women in Nigeria. Their mission is to provide access to education through various programs and initiatives, including their Stand With A Girl Education Project. This project focuses on providing education to young girls in Nigeria who would otherwise not have the opportunity to attend school.

SEGEI is a women-led and youth-focused non-profit organization that is dedicated to helping girls and women in low-resource settings find their voices, access resources, and use their talents to thrive. They seek to IGNITE, NURTURE, and HARNESS the intellectual, emotional, and social strengths of adolescent girls and young women through education (formal and informal), mentorship, and life skills development. 

Each of these organizations brings something to this partnership: empowerment, education, agency, and sustainable solutions to period poverty and shame. We are exceptionally proud that they read our concepts and chose to partner with us!

Shades of Us is also one of 60 recipients of ten cartons of Kotex Panty Liners from the Yagazie Foundation and Kimberly Clark in their bid to address period poverty and violence against women and girls. This is a great addition to FLOW and we will be distributing these panty liners as part of the approach. We are proud to join 59 other women-led non-profit and community-based organizations to improve the menstrual health, hygiene, and access of women and girls in Nigeria. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Yagazie Foundation and Kimberly-Clark for their commitment to supporting organizations like ours in the fight against period poverty.

Flow will premiere on February 29, 2024. We have organized an event that will serve as a platform for adolescents, public health experts, educators, and community leaders to come together to discuss the possibility of a future where menstruation is no longer a barrier but a source of empowerment for all.

FLOW is a movement—a call to action to acknowledge the challenges faced by women and girls navigating period poverty in Nigeria and beyond. It is about sparking dialogue, fostering engagement, and inspiring tangible action. Together, we can break down menstruation taboos, advocate for change, and champion sustainable solutions to ensure menstrual equity and health for all.

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