Periods have always been a topic that many considered inappropriate, controversial and indecorous to speak about for centuries, despite the fact that it is a natural process experienced by 50.2% of the Earth’s population. As a result of this stigma surrounding menstruation, millions do not have access to proper sanitation services in developing countries, especially in Asia. For example, in Nepal, there is an ancient tradition called, ‘Chaupadi’, where girls as young as 11 are banished out of their homes and into cow sheds when they are menstruating. This practice stems from the unfounded myths that “Periods are unholy” or “invite the devil to the household.” During this seven day period, many of them end up contracting harmful infections and some even die due to extreme weather conditions and lack of proper sanitation in the cowsheds.
Even though this tradition does not exist in Thailand, period stigma and poverty are still prevalent issues that have been overlooked for a long time. The country’s curriculum on biological topics such as menstruation and sex education is very minimal and lacks helpful detail. Without sufficient knowledge and support from adults, many girls tend to miss school during their periods and some drop out completely. No human should ever have to sacrifice their own right to education simply because a natural process that they have no control over is making others minorly uncomfortable. That will never be okay, and was never alright in the first place.
To address this widespread yet insufficiently acknowledged issue, Project Red began as a club at the International School of Bangkok, working to empower the girls and women in rural Thailand with access to proper menstrual hygiene products and education. Project Red focuses solely on the importance of eradicating period stigma and poverty through service, advocacy, and education. Since its first meeting in August 2019, the club members have donated enough pads for over 300 menstrual cycles, and have provided more than 160 girls with menstrual education.
Across the globe, females are said to be weak because of their physical limitations. In their very first project, Project Red was able to disprove this and highlight the many capabilities and talent of many girls at ISB with their ‘PowerPad Girls’ photo series. The main target was to establish the statement “Anything you can do, I can do bleeding”, and this photo series united girls from a wide range of fields: dance, photography, STEM, softball, etc. The outstanding work of these girls in their chosen fields proved that periods are not a limitation that girls have - instead, it is just another part of them - they are still able to thrive with or without it. The club was able to showcase this photo series during a fundraising event called, SHOUT, which facilitated their collaboration with Days for Girls, Hua Hin. The donations collected provided over 160 girls with menstrual education and period kits.
During this outbreak of COVID-19, domestic violence has drastically increased, causing many women and their children to seek shelter in emergency homes. Sometimes these emergency homes can be overwhelmed as supplies can be insufficient. In order to support those in need, Project Red donated over 200 pads with the money they fundraised for the women seeking shelter in the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women (APSW) Emergency Home.
According to UNDP, Thailand ranked 69th on the Gender Inequality index. Even though it might seem to some of you that the world has reached full gender equality, it really has not. While many other factors also affect gender inequality, period stigma is an extremely relevant one - our society makes a habit of putting down women just because of a baseless belief that bleeding monthly makes them weaker in some way. We must put an end to this prejudice. Millions of girls have proved themselves equally as capable as men despite their periods in the past, whether this was while fighting for the right to vote, running marathons, creating art, winning tournaments, and so much more. Do not have a doubt that we will continue doing so in the future! You can help by supporting and donating to our organisation, or starting your own and joining us in our fight for #FreePeriod today.
If you want to connect with us for collaborations, please contact us via Instagram DM(@_proj.red) or Email(firstname.lastname@example.org). See even more details about us in our profile of TYE’s masterlist resource.