Monday 15 October, 2018

Shelly-Ann Weeks aims to break stigma with Period Awareness initiative

Her Flow founder Shelly-Ann Weeks addresses students during Period Awareness Week. (PHOTO: Contributed)

Her Flow founder Shelly-Ann Weeks addresses students during Period Awareness Week. (PHOTO: Contributed)

Lifestyle coach Shelly-Ann Weeks extended her Period Awareness initiative to a week of activities this year as she aims to help break the stigma and shame around menstruation and encourage open conversations about the issue.

Period Awareness Week, which was organised by Weeks' Her Flow organisation and was held from October 18 to 24, included a  school tour, a 5k run, panel discussion and a lecture.

During the school tour, students were engaged in conversations about menstruation, and the symptoms that some of the students experience were discussed.

Weeks helped the students make the connection between diet and lifestyle choices and how it affects the period. She also gave the students advice on some of the lifestyle changes they can make to have less painful, more manageable periods.

Free samples of menstrual products and personal items were distributed to the students courtesy of the sponsors including Stayfree, Carefree, Playtex, WeChange, Jamaica Observer, Lasco Curves and Simple Cosmetics from T Geddes Grant.   

“We added the school tour to the activities this year because it’s important that we educate young women about the connection between their lifestyle choice and their reproductive health," Weeks said in a press release.   

“We insisted that the boys were present at the presentations because there are clear benefits to educating them about female reproductive issues,” she added.

The schools visited during Period Awareness Week include UWI – Western Campus; Waterford High School; Utech – Women Empowerment Society; UWI – Mary Seacole Hall; Women’s Center; Holy Trinity High; Mona High; Excelsior Community College; and Excelsior High.

The 5k run, dubbed 'Red Run', was held at Hope Gardens on October 21.  It started at about 7:30 am with a quick warm up, before the participants ran a 5k around the track at the Band Stand Gazebo. 

After the  run, everyone was served breakfast and were engaged in a conversation about period poverty – inability to afford menstrual products - and the steps that can be taken to solve this issue.  

There are young girls in school who cannot afford to buy lunch, so they are victims of period poverty, so they get creative and use items such as old shirts, toilet paper, even paper towels whenever they are menstruating, according to Weeks.

 “One of our mandates with this initiative is to address period poverty in schools and make menstrual products available for free to young women," Weeks said. 

“If we take a look at what’s going on around the world, UK has pledged 10 million pounds to address period poverty in that country, Nigeria has already started distributing free pads in schools and Scotland has free products in select centers across the country.  It’s time we do something here in Jamaica to fix this problem.”