Menstruation Series: Part I

Hey everyone!

A couple of months ago, my partner and I were invited to serve in the Peace Corps. Super exciting! While we are still waiting for medical clearance (fingers crossed), this possible adventure got me thinking a lot about periods. Where we were going, there is very little electricity, and no running water, not to mention strict views on gender. What’s more, the more I read about being a woman in a developing country, the more I learned that traditional pads and tampons simply aren’t available due to lacking resources and heavy menstruation taboos. What is a Peace Corps volunteer-hopeful gotta do?

Turns out, there are a couple of ways female volunteers deal with periods out in the field–the Peace Corps supplies all women with menstrual cups. However, I became more interested in how locals deal with menstruation, and of other ways to period both back home and in the developing world. This Menstruation Series will be divided into four parts, each discussing a different period product that is both more environmentally friendly, developing nation friendly, and tested out my yours truly. For part I, I want to share a couple of things I have learned about what it is like to menstruate for girls and women living in the developing world.

Girls miss school.

Yep, you read that right. Millions of girls miss school because of their period–and eventually drop out. This is a problem both where I might be going with the Peace Corps, and worldwide. The infographic above from Her Turn is a great visual of the problems present. Many girls report lacking resources to deal with periods. In rural areas, there are usually no bathrooms, garbage disposal, or running water in schools. Many girls end up using old rags and clothing in place of a pad to get through the few days of their period.

Girls who stay in school longer grow their country’s GDP, have more economic opportunity, less children, marry later in life, and if they do have a family, their kids are more likely to live past the age of 5. Education lifts up everyone, and girls make up half the world. Let’s not keep them back.

There are tons of organizations trying to alleviate the problem sustainably, such as AFRIpads–check them out here.

Menstruation=Taboo

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Another big factor affecting girls and women who are menstruating are the heavy taboos placed upon it. Because there is little education or understanding of female health and hygiene, many people view periods as unnatural and unclean. Sometimes women and girls have to live apart from their communities during their period because of this. And, if a girl bleeds through her clothes at school, she faces extreme embarrassment from community members. If you thought it was hard talking about periods in the United States, think again.

There are programs like WASH by UNICEF that are trying to change this, at least in terms of hygiene for not just girls, but all children. There is also the Thinx Foundation, whose goal is to educate and empower girls around the world, particularly regarding periods.

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That’s all for this week! I encourage you to do further research, because this is an issue we can fight and put an end to. I hope that I am able to dedicate my life to service around the world, and if not that, we can work together to improve the lives of those in our own communities.

Until next time,

Marta

Menstruation Series: Part I

Living Radically: Graduating Early

Hey readers,

This past weekend, I graduated college! Well, almost. It’s story time.

Three years ago, I graduated high school with every intention to either, A) Travel the world on my own, or B) Move across the country and attend college on the west coast. Instead, I ended up going to college fifteen minutes down the road from my house.

My father is a professor, which means an opportunity for a debt-free education. He works at a business school, which while great, was never a path I wanted to go down. What’s more, I wanted to adventure!!! But with no money saved up and no other prospects, I went to the last place I wanted to be on earth–school with my parents and living at home.

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I have always been the type of person to make the best of any situation, and that is exactly what I did. Freshman year, I joined clubs and found my place learning Mandarin Chinese with an awesome group of people. Sophomore year, I got a job as resident assistant, which allowed me to fulfill my dream of living on campus. That really changed everything, because up until that point, I was trying extremely hard to make friends on campus. The good friends I made in freshman year had graduated or left altogether and like many college students, I had to find some more. While being a resident assistant put me on campus full-time, I can honestly say it is the reason I made my next move: graduate college one year early.

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They say that your vibes attract your tribe, and in my case, I was trapped in a bubble were there were either zero vibes or I wasn’t vibing right. Either way, I didn’t make anymore strong connections at school, and I decided to make the most of my college opportunity in a new way: use my free tuition to take a ton of extra classes and be done with school forever. And so, I did it. I found my class of 2018 gear and changed it all to 2017. I made school about classes and not about making strong connections on campus, and I spent more time on projects like Feminine Boutique (which is way more fun than school).

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Finally, this semester came around. It was the hardest yet, probably because I was so close to the end, and also because I was amidst lining up a job for after I graduated. I kept my head down, worked hard, and managed to make the honor roll for every semester since the beginning of this ride. I chugged through the busy work, the work that actually mattered, and then some. And now, with two summer classes left, I can already say I have crossed the stage and truly took advantage of every opportunity given to me. And, in about two months, I get to finally pursue that dream of traveling the world by serving in the Peace Corps with my partner in crime.

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Moral of the story? No matter the cards you are dealt, keep playing the game. Keep trying, and keep hacking at whatever wall stands in your way, because most walls are worth knocking down. Remember, you are in charge of your destiny.

Living radically,

Marta

Living Radically: Graduating Early