In the last few years, we have witnessed a wave of powerful and courageous women and men all across the globe who have worked in different ways to increase the awareness and knowledge about menstruation, and how it affects women’s everyday lives. By sharing their own experiences, encouraging others to talk more openly about periods, developing educational material and improving menstruation health among marginalized groups, they are all a part of a positive development that challenges misconceptions, stigmas and taboos surrounding menstruation. These “menstruation activists” or “period heroes” definitely deserve some time in the limelight. We will present a few of them and their work.
Arunachalam Muruganantham, India
Arunachalam Muruganantham, also known as “India’s menstrual man” is a social entrepreneur who invented a low-cost sanitary pad-making machine. This invention was praised as a key step in changing the lives of women in India by creating jobs and making sanitary products more affordable. His story is the subject of the Indian movie Pad Man, which was released in February 2018. The people behind the promotion of the film had challenged its audience to share a selfie with a sanitary pad, with the caption #PadManChallenge.
Chella Quint, UK
Chella Quint is a menstruation education researcher, science communicator, comedian, and the founder of #periodpositive – a campaign and research infoshop that promotes better education, challenges media messages on menstruation, and supports schools and organizations on tackling period poverty long term. She coined the term ‘period positive’ in 2006.
Cinta Tort Cartró, Spain
Cinta Tort Cartró, aka Zinteta, is a young Catalan artist who paints her work on her body and the bodies of other women using watercolors, tempera, and acrylics. Her work explores taboo themes about the female body, ranging from stretch marks to a woman’s menstrual cycle. By turning periods and stretch marks into rainbow works of art, Zinteta’s aim is to change the perception of and normalize things that are seen as defects, and inspire people to consider the beauty of parts of themselves they have been told to hate.
Eva Wünsch and Luisa Stömer, Germany
Eva Wünsch and Luisa Stömer are graphic designers, as well as illustrators and authors of Ebbe & Blut (Ebb & Blood), a book that explains the female cycle with expertise and humor without shame. It’s about “the beauty of middle pain, the aesthetics of full bleached panties and the sophistication of the ovulation phase”.
Liv Strömquist, Sweden
Liv Strömquist is an internationally acclaimed cartoonist and the author of the bestseller book Fruit of Knowledge, in which she tells the history of menstruation and how different cultures and traditions have shaped women’s health. In the fall of 2017, her paintings of menstruating women were on display at subway stations in Stockholm.
Nadya Okamoto and Vincent Forand, U.S.
Nadya Okamoto and Vincent Forand are the founders of the non-profit organization Period, which works with tackling the issue of period poverty, especially among homeless women. The organization provides menstrual products to those in need, lobbies for increased access to menstrual products, and educates young people.
Roz Campbell, Australia
Roz Campbell is an Australian social entrepreneur and founder of the brand Tsuno, which ethically manufactures environmentally friendly sanitary pads and donates 50 percent of all profits to the International Women’s Development Agency. In 2016, Campbell held the exhibition “Shark Week” in Melbourne, where she invited around 30 artists to illustrate different euphemisms of menstruation, to highlight the fact that there is still embarrassment to speak openly about menstruation.