Environmenstrual week: reflections from Ukraine
Our members from Zero Waste Alliance Ukraine reflected on their actions as part of Environmenstrual Week 2019, read what they had to say…
Ukraine is a magnificent country in Eastern Europe. However, for a pretty long time, discussions about any sort of “feminine stuff” was exclusive to small female circles, which were held quietly and with a tinge of embarrassment. Every time a woman took a single-use pad or a tampon from her purse, she was persistently hiding it from anyone else’s eye. So,discussions about reusable menstrual products were held incredibly quietly, and most commonly perceived as something rather unusual, and considered to be for eco-geeks exclusively.
With the Zero Waste boom starting in 2017, the conversation about reusable products for menstrual hygiene started growing slowly but surely.
In 2019 Zero Waste Alliance Ukraine (ZWAU) became an aspirant member of Zero Waste Europe, and joined Break Free From Plastic. After that, ZWAU members started joining international campaigns and activities, held by these two movements, and bringing them to a Ukrainian audience. One of these campaigns was EnvironMenstrual Week, which all menstruators within the ZWAU members took very seriously!
We had few main goals in mind:
- raise awareness about the environmental and health impacts of single-use products for menstrual hygiene;
- promote reusable menstrual products;
- break the taboo around menstruation.
From the very beginning, we wanted the information to come from as many sources as possible, so we started gathering partners. Multiple Ukrainian Zero Waste Shops gave discounts for reusable menstrual products. They also posted information about the campaign, and its goals from their pages. One of the reusable pads producers gave gifts for a giveaway, so we organized a so-called EnvironMenstrual Giveaway, during which people could write a post about their will to try reusable menstrual products, or share a story about their past experiences with environmentally friendly products during their periods. We were excited to see how some producers and shops collaborated with each other, and organised their own giveaways; now they continue their collaboration, share experiences and sell each other’s products.
One of the activities we hosted during the campaign, was a webinar on reusable alternatives for periods, during which we wanted to let people ask any questions they had, and discuss them with people who work in zero waste field. So we invited a Ukrainian producer of menstrual cups, panties, and pads (reusable of course) and had an online conversation about reusables, some myths around those, and of course useful life hacks. We are glad to have recorded this talk, so now anyone (who speaks Ukranian) can watch it and learn any time they want.
We also wanted to have both online and offline activities, so we organised two events. One, Green Red Drinks, took place in Lviv. This was a very informal event where we could share some information on reusable menstrual products, let people see and touch them, as well as talk and hear from those who have tried the products. Our second event took place in Kyiv, it was an educational event named “Menstruation? Normal situation”. The main idea of this event was to create a free space where girls could talk about menstruation with no limits and no feeling of being ashamed. A gynecologist, researchers and eco activists were invited as speakers for the event. The gynecologist explained which personal care products for women are the most safe and healthy. The researcher presented her work about materials, which are used in the production of single use menstrual pads and tampons. Eco activists shared their experiences of having a #PlasticFreePeriod. The event helped to dispel myths and break stereotypes about menstruation. In addition to the lecture there was also a Q&A session with speakers. The whole event was recorded on video which will be published soon. This video will be made available for a wider group of people.
We were also excited to see an extensive article in the national media about EnvironMenstrual Week, and different reusable alternatives that exist for menstruators. The journalist who wrote it, participated in Green Red Drinks, so we are glad to have had this media support and interest in the topic. In just a day this article was read more than 1300 times!
We didn’t do all the activities we had planned during October 12-19, so we are already planning to have a second round of the campaign. While the campaign was running, we found a fantastic gynecologist, who is willing to give a lecture and talk more about reusable menstrual products from a medical point of view. We also plan to print out stickers, for public toilets, and write on them: “Please, don’t throw hygiene items into the toilet, and actually it might be time to try reusable ones!”. So we are definitely not stopping at this point, we’ll keep talking, informing, consulting, and step by step, we will reach our goals!
We cannot say that we have smashed the taboo around the subject, but there is no doubt that we are on our way! As we all know, zero waste is just as much about the journey as it is the destination!