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Periodically - meet our superstar ambassadors! (Oct 2019)
Dear Friends,  welcome back to another issue of 'Periodically'.
 
In this issue, we want to shine a light on our Ambassador Network and share inspiring stories of true superstars who are growing the  #ClothPadRevolution all over the world in a variety of ways including promoting washable cloth pads and revaluing menstruation in their communities through advocacy, education (formal and informal), discussion groups, and/or selling Eco Femme pads.
In this video, Shradha who supports our ambassadors, shares more about the network and what joining it entails.
Read on to learn more and get inspired!
Meet Rajasi from Chhattisgarh, now based in Mumbai:
What have you done this year?
"I've facilitated several cloth pad making sessions, trained 380 men and women who work in slum areas of Mumbai on MHM (menstrual health management) and launched my own campaign with another Eco Femme ambassador, Mamta, named 'Bleed Red Go Green' where we will educate girls and women on MHM in Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand.

I also presented my research on menstrual experiences of women in jail, women in sex work, women with disabilities and non-binary people/transmen at a conference in Colorado, US, organised by the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research."

 
What motivates you to be do this work?
"I love working with women, girls and people who menstruate. I understand that there is need to listen to these people which helps them to feel accepted. When people become comfortable talking about their bodies and emotions with me - it's very rewarding. 6 years ago I started working on this and slowly it has become my passion project."
 
What are some of your key learnings from this work?
"I have grown as a person while working on this. I've become a more patient listener, empathic and also I found a community which believes in sisterhood. I have learned to accept diversities and be respectful of other people's choices. Sometimes it's challenging for some people to understand why this topic is so important. Some people understand slowly, some don't. And that's OK."
Meet Fridel from Germany, now based in the UK:
What have you done this year?
"I run menstrual and puberty education programs and circles for girls and adults in the UK as well as a bodyworker and Yoga & Meditation teacher. I am also part of a worldwide menstrual education program called 'A Celebration Day for Girls'  that celebrates Menarche - the first period."

“When a girl understands her body and what it is doing then she can grow into a woman who trusts her body and cherishes it for the miraculous creation it is”.
 
What motivates you to do this work?
"In post-socialist Germany, where I grew up, the culture of "not talking about things" really shaped my experience as a young girl.  There was a lot of confusion around my body image. I learned to compare myself with others and absorb the toxic attitude about periods and female bodies from my culture. It installed in me a deep desire to communicate openly and understand what‘s really going on inside and outside. I would have loved a space to ask questions, learn and exchange with others.

This is why I offer spaces for girls and adults - so we can connect and learn, ask questions in a fun and comfortable environment. With running these workshops I experience the immense joy of inspiring for a positive body image, emotional resilience & a growing self-esteem."
 
What are some of your key learnings from this work?
"One of the biggest learnings for me is to bring the work that I do with the girls into the circle work I do with adults. It is quite incredible to see that often what adults need to feel supported and safe is not so different what the 10-12 year old girls need. If each of us nourishes and supports the little girl in us, we can learn to access our power and freedom."
Meet Prerna, our mountain climbing ambassador!
Watch this inspiring film by Flowmo Picture Company featuring Eco Femme ambassador, Prerna Dangi, combining her favourite activites, mountain climbing and spreading awareness of sustainable menstruation!
Meet Nelson based in Bokakhat, Assam:
What have you done this year?
"I did a WinS (WASH in Schools) project in collaboration with Rotary District 3240 where I conducted menstrual health and sanitation educational programmes for 27 schools across Assam, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura and North Bengal. In total, I was able to educate 3000 adolescent girls and train 140 school teachers and rotary members.

I've also been coordinating, training and consulting the ongoing STINER project which is happening in the northeast states - I have been managing Tripura and Nagaland. The aim of the project was to set up sustainable cloth pad production units (livelihood generation) and create awareness on menstrual health.

In Tripura the unit was set up in September last year in a village called Damseera and then followed by awareness sessions in schools, colleges and community centers in 2019. I was able to educate almost about a thousand adolescent girls and women in Tripura (Damseera, Dharmanagar & Agartala).

In Nagaland, we set up the unit in a town called Jalukie in January this year followed by visits every month to monitor and check the progress of work and create awareness on menstrual health management and cloth pads. I was able to cover another odd thousand adolescent girls and women in Nagaland (Dimapur, Kohima, Jalukie). My support for this project will be until Feb 2020.
 

On the occasion of Menstrual Hygiene Day - I conducted two MHM sessions and Make Your Own Cloth Pad workshops in collaboration with UNICEF Assam and the District Administrations of Sibsagar and Dibrugarh Districts. We trained 20 women in each district.
Other than those bigger events, we continue to hold smaller sessions in our office with smaller groups of people every month."
 
What motivates you to do this work?
"Over the past few years I have managed to accelerate advocacy and action on menstrual health in and around Northeast of India and when I notice the amount of positive impact it has bought in the society, that really motivates me to continue doing this work."
 
What are some of your key learnings from this work?
"Getting the government sectors like the NRHM, NHM, PHED, SSA etc to take action or work on Menstrual Health Management (MHM)  is extremely challenging in parts of Northeast India. The officials still consider MHM to be less important, a subject that doesn't need much attention and they believe that it's being managed well. The lack of basic infrastructure for toilets in government schools is shocking. Inadequate WASH facilities or no facilities at all in schools is surprising (doors without latches, no running water, no soap, no disposal mechanism). School going girls who cannot use functional toilets during their periods is depressing. No proper menstrual waste management system is another huge concern, not just in schools and colleges but in urban residential areas, offices and working spaces as well. 

Other challenges are the superstitions, taboos, stigmas attached to periods."
This documentary made by Nelson shows one of the most popular festivals celebrated in Guwahati, Assam, when the Goddess Durga in the incarnation of Kamakhya, undergoes her yearly menstruation during the Ambubachi Festival.
Meet Veronica from Mexico, now based in Canada:
What have you done this year?
"I hold women circles every month. The last one was last Monday, with hispanic immigrants, and the theme "Far from Home". I hold Menstrual Consciousness and Menopause workshops every 3/4 months. The next one is in November 23 & 24. I attach photo from the previous one. I also work with women one on one. I am a counsellor/dance-movement therapy, so my sessions are for them to reconnect with the wisdom of their cyclic nature, in an embodied way, whether that is for health purposes, to transit menopause, to find their calling or as a spiritual practice."
 
What motivates you to do this work?
"Here you can find a poem that I wrote a while ago, expressing my calling for this work."
 

What are some of your key learnings from this work?
"It's incredible how every woman who starts to get awareness and understand the power and mystery that lays behind our cyclic wisdom, asks why no body told her earlier, and at the same time recognises is as something that she already knew and doesn't know why she wasn't more aware of it.
 
I am always incredibly surprised by the immense healing power that a circle of sisterhood has. I have seen women who had not bled for years, having their period back after attending a circle or a workshop. Not to mention of course the incredible emotional support that a safe circle of women represents for each of us.

I also love how every woman who starts using cloth pads or the cup, connect with their blood in a different way and start loving, respecting and honouring it. I am also surprised by how women can heal their now lineage when they start working consciously with their menstrual cycle, and we also start recognising and honouring the bigger cycles of nature as we see ourselves reflected on them. The biggest challenge for me so far is that there is still huge taboo around the subject, so it is still very difficult to reach many women (not to mention men). Not everyone is open to do a "conscious menstruation" or "conscious menopause" workshop. I so wish I could find the way to let them know how bleeding consciously or entering menopause consciously will transform their life."
Meet Bridget from Ireland, based in Auroville:
What have you done this year?
"I visited shops with my sample pack when on a trip home to Ireland and introduced the benefits of cloth pads and the inspiring health programmes that each purchase supports. I found openness as it is a poignant moment with such a building urgency about climate change in Europe,  many towns want to be plastic-free and people are looking for alternatives. I also talk to friends and family and have had quite a bit of success with all my sister, some friends and work colleagues now buying online and spreading the word."
 
What motivates you to do this work?
"When I first came across Eco Femme I was inspired to be a user knowing my purchase would support the protection of the planet and contribute to Eco Femme's social programmes. However, my heart broke one day when my friend and Eco Femme co-founder, Kathy told me she had met conservancy workers from Chennai whose job it is to swim through the sewers, without any protective clothing, and unclog the daily pile of sanitary pads and disposable nappies that block the municipals sewage system. I felt shocked and was so distraught that I knew I also needed to act and from then onwards I actively spread the message of Eco Femme."

What are some of your key learnings from this work?
"To me, Eco Femme stands for the well being and full potential for people and our beautiful planet. As long as people have to swim through sewers to clean up after the rest of us, I will continue to be a passionate advocate of using cloth instead of disposable and in spreading the message of Eco Femme."


One of our ambassadors, Tanvi, based in Pune, India shares some thoughts on bringing awareness of sustainable menstrual products to the Indian market in an article over on our BLOG
Meet Swastika based in Darjeeling:
What have you done this year?
"I attended the Maasika Mahotav 2019 celebration with educational institutions, fitness centers, NGO staffs, open events at cafes and open public spaces across 5 states in Northern India. Conducted a Training of Trainers session with Panchayat Field workers at Sikkim Institute of Rural Development.
Conducted educational sessions with:
  • Southfield College students and teachers
  • Hotel Management Institute students and faculty in Kalimpong District
  • St. Michaels’s School, Darjeeling
  • Mineral Spring community in Darjeeeling during the Capacity Development Program of Community workers
  • World Tourism Day with Homestay Owners Association and Kuresong Municipality
I did a Pad For Pad programme session with adolescent girls of Turyok community, Kuresong sub-division, Darjeeling District and I participated in the Clean Tribeni (confluence of river Teesta and Rangeet) river campaign organised by Warnamala Pariwar."
 
What motivates you to do this work?

"I have been working in the developmental sector for the past 6 years and I initially started with a WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) project with tea plantation workers and schools. During our intervention we saw that the schools lacked a basic sanitation facility and managing menstrual hygiene and waste was a huge challenge. I was fortunate enough to attend one of the sustainable menstrual health awareness drive organised by Sustainable Menstruation Kerala group for a month in and around Kerala. The first thing I did after coming back was the switch, and I felt so much better and healthier and the best part was that I was not creating any waste. 

I wanted to share my experience in the programmes that I had already been doing. As I started doing more awareness programmes, I saw that there was a huge knowledge gap in this topic of menstruation and though a normal biological process, people still hesitated to talk about it. I also felt that all women should be aware of what their sanitary products are made up of as it is something they use/need it every month and which comes in close contact with their most sensitive and delicate part of their bodies."

What are some of your key learnings from this work?
"Over the years I have learned that menstruation still has a huge amount of taboos associated with it and that requires a lot of discussion, talks and involvement of men too. Men too have a big role when it comes to menstruation and it is not only a women’s issue. There is still much work needed to be done in this field and simply distributing sanitary pads and installing vending machines is not going to solve the problem of menstrual hygiene management. Rather the focus should be on building knowledge, awareness and efforts to deal with taboos and beliefs which is the root cause for all problems."
Meet Dr Amisha based in Vapi, Gujurat:
What have you done this year?
"In 2019 I have completed 38 awareness sessions on menstrual hygiene through my organisation, RED Revolution, which includes  sessions for inmates in women jail, women police & also sessions with men, because I believe that a well informed man will be a protective brother a caring husband and a dependable father."
 
What motivates you to do this work?
"I believe that lack of communication has made life of women very difficult. In my sessions I try to make them comfortable talking about this subject openly & without any guilt. Superstition has crippled womens' confidence & mobility in life. Giving them the correct & appropriate information of sanitary products available in the market & its impact in their health & environment & giving them the freedom to make a known choice With RED Revolution, I'm trying to bring back the science & the dignity of menstruation."
 
What are some of your key learnings from this work?
  • Knowledge should not be gender biased.
  • And every child be it a girl or a boy needs to be made aware of this natural phenomenon.
  • A girl bleeds every month for 40 years of her life, just so that she can produce one or two babies, I think her suffering & contribution should be valued.
  • Women in India need to know their body anatomy well, only then will they know how to protect it.
 
One of our ambassadors, Jharna based in Delhi, shares the story of her journey into sustainable menstruation and becoming a menstrual educator over on our BLOG
Meet Maha from Hyderabad:
What have you done this year?
"Two major events I was part of was the Menstrual Festival in May 2019 hosted by Good Universe and Hibiscus. I participated to discuss about the parameters that went into product design of Eco Femme pads. Most significant would be the one day workshop I did for the MyHome group along with Kathy from Eco Femme as part of a CSR activity of Meru International School. This was a full day, half interviewing of the housekeeping staff to know their views and issues around menstruation and the remaining half was spent educating them on possible issues around menstruation and the home remedies to address the same, when to visit the doctor, menstrual hygiene management (MHM) practices etc."
 
What motivates you to do this work?
"The very fact that I see women as torchbearers of a healthy society. If a woman is educated and healthy, the family and in turn the entire society benefits is what motivates me. It breaks my heart to see that women ignore their own self as their energies are used up by familial demands, particularly those from the lower rungs of society. It has to change for better.

Hence as part of my educating them, I always urge them to have a 'me-time' and make it a compulsory, not just during periods but on a daily basis. It could be as simple as listening to music, sipping a chai, reading a newspaper, or journaling, but it must be a non-negotiable time for them as self care ensures a healthy mind and in turn a healthy body."

 
What are some of your key learnings from this work?
"We found that almost all the women whom we spoke with at the workshop were silently facing some kind of health issue and suffering without much respite. But more than anything they just want to be heard. Listening non-judgmentally is half the problem solved! We suggested that since they work together they make a virtual family and they have an onus to support each other and make things better for them."
Meet Jane from the UK:
What have you done this year?
I am an Embodied Wellbeing Coach, Girls Circle Facilitator, Rites of Passage facilitator, Yoga teacher and all time champion of women of all ages and walks of life. This year I’ve been running my first girls circle - this is a year long programme where a group of 10-12 year olds come to me once a month and explore topics such as puberty, relationships, behaviour, consent, inspirational women and following your dreams. This is going really well and I will be starting my second one this coming Spring.
I also facilitate classes and workshops for women to support them through perimenopause and menopause with an emphasis on the feminine pelvis and creating awareness, connection and good health and vitality in this sacred and powerful part of the female body.
 
What motivates you to do this work?
I bring menstrual education into my work for different reasons. I want to support women with letting go of shame around this subject, to allow them to see the power and potential of being in sync with the feminine menstrual cycle. I feel strongly that if teen girls can get into sync and harness the potential of this it could be a great support in mental health. If more women were embracing and utilising their cycle to navigate their life I reckon women would be able to step more freely into places of power and influence from a place of deep feminine wisdom and empowerment. I also find it fascinating learning about the physical, psychological and spiritual aspects of the feminine cycle and the more I learn the more I want to share with women of all ages as well as acknowledging the importance of educating the men too.
 
What are some of your key learnings from this work?
Surprises that arise from this work is the willingness of most teens to spend some time talking about it. I sometimes bring in some talk about the moon and how that can possibly influence them, I almost expect them to be skeptical but in general find them very happy to listen and accept this as a possibility , it reminds me to not neglect the ‘mystery’ side of this work and how this age group love this part of it. In my girls group they love physically playing around with the different products that can be used to catch the blood and through the fun and giggles there is a great deal of learning and accepting.

My dream is to be running sessions within schools around positive periods, educating girls (and boys) on what is happening to their bodies, why its happening, how to manage it and embrace it!
If you're inspired by these stories from just a handful of our ambassadors, why not sign up to become a superstar Eco Femme ambassador yourself?
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