Updated: Nov 7, 2020
My Period is Awesome (MPIA) is a platform for projects focusing on Menstrual Health (MH) & Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). MPIA gathers local organizations and activists and showcases their important work to inspire others to follow. They provide capacity building to grass-root activists and offer them access to an international network, experts, influencers and policymakers. The name "My Period is Awesome" was chosen to challenge the taboo connected to menstruation and to wash away menstrual shame - once and for all. Terese Lann Welin, her co-founder, has agreed to answer to our questions.
Could you please tell us about yourself?
My name is Terese Lann Welin, I'm Swedish, and I am one of the founders of Wise Economy and the platform My Period Is Awesome (MPIA). My co-founder is my mother, Carin Lann. We call her Grandma Menstruation, and she is a big part of the foundation of our platform with over 30 years of experience of running international projects. We are building the MPIA-movement together with young and passionate teams in other countries, and sometimes it's good to have that experience to lean on. She is a much-appreciated part of this movement, even if she is not as active as she was in the beginning. But when we hit those obstacles, we always know who to call.
Could you please tell us more about your online presence?
Connected to the movement is the digital platform myperiodisawesome.com and the social accounts @myperiodisawesome. The platform is an open resource for blogs and content related to MHM and SRHR, it runs campaigns together with our partners like the campaigns #noperiodshame and #taxfreeperiodnam, and we post educational articles in the Menscylopedia. These articles are fact-checked by a doctor to ensure the quality of our content. With over 40,000 followers and growing, the platform has become an essential part of our movement.
What inspired you to create My Period is Awesome?
When I first came across period poverty in 2015, it really hit a nerve with me. It was something so obvious that I never thought of before! I realized that it’s all connected to shame and stigma, and that's why we don't talk about it! Not long after I understood how much internalized shame I was carrying around! Menstrual shame and stigma are a global problem and needs to be recognized as such. So, I wanted to contribute to a change and not long after, My Period Is Awesome was born.
My Period Is Awesome works with various organizations in order to raise awareness about menstruation. How do you achieve this?
This is the absolute best part of my work - getting to know new organizations and the people behind them! I get inspired every day by the work they do. We build our projects together with our partners through a collaborative approach, and our movement keeps growing by the day. Every week new organizations contact us and want to partner, but we only partner through financed projects to ensure sustainable growth. Currently, we have active projects with partners in South Africa, Namibia, Sweden, Rwanda and Uganda. We get our funds through ForumCiv and the Swedish Institute, so our projects have funding from the Swedish Government.
My Period is Awesome has launched the #noperiodshame campaign in May 2020. Could you please explain what was the idea and what it achieved?
The campaign was a success globally and started a multi-sectoral conversation, with people of all ages and genders. We reached around 614'000 people worldwide, which is a fantastic result! We had contributions from five continents and 17 countries in total. The content of the campaign consisted of pictures submitted by famous people, NGOs, embassies, civilians, and infographics with messages concerning period shaming, menstrual health and right.
The founder of our partner Wellbeing Foundation, Shyaka Lwanyaaga Farid, came up with the idea and then we all got to work! Creating an online campaign requires a lot of human resources—something we often tend to forget. The main idea of the campaign was to visualize a uterus with both hands in front of the body and using the term/tag no period shame. The purpose was to start a conversation about the stigma, shame and taboo surrounding periods as well as period poverty. Something we managed to do!
How is My Period is Awesome involved in MHM in Sweden?
We run a social business called World Period Group. It all started with a campaign one year ago called #menssäkrad (#periodproofed). The movement snowballed and created a market. So now we sell period products to companies and organizations, challenging the stigma and making period products more accessible for all. (menssakrad.se)
What are the steps to follow for an organization to join My period is Awesome?
Since we only partner through financed projects, we only take on one or two new partnerships a year. We have to do it this way to ensure stable growth. The relationship with a potential new partner usually begins through interaction in social media. Social media is such an easy way to get to know different organizations and what their values are. Each year we evaluate if we can take on new partnerships, and after that, we start writing applications together with the potential partner. It's an intense period of WhatsApp calls and emails, but usually, the work pays off. About half a year later, we know if we get the funding or not and then our joint journey begins!
What are the most common questions that are raised and how do you answer them?
Through our blog platform myperiodisawesome.com and the social media connected to it, we get questions every day. With 40,000 followers and growing, we see an increased need in talking to someone in confidence outside your social circle. We don't always have time to engage with our followers privately due to lack of time but when we do the most common questions are: "Why is My Period irregular?" and "Can I get pregnant when I have sex on my period?" You can find the answer to these questions on our website.
How has the Coronavirus impacted your distribution in 2020?
It has impacted all of us, and I will let our partners answer for themselves in their interviews. For us here in Sweden, it has affected our funding, and it took a massive turn on our social business #menssäkrad. From a steadily increasing turnover to NOTHING overnight! But things are picking up again, and we see a bright future. Menstrual Equity is not just a trend.
What would you advise to any organization that would like to introduce MHM in their programmes?
Menstruation is more than just blood from the uterus, so have a holistic approach. Beyond the biological aspects of menstruation and SRH, a holistic approach is the teaching and learning about the cognitive, emotional, physical and social aspects of menstruation and SRHR. A holistic approach in education helps equip young people with knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values that empower them to gain better health, well-being, and dignity. Holistic also means involving all genders, parents, caretakers, teachers, duty bearer etc.
When introducing menstrual materials in your work, try to introduce choices. Don't push for a particular kind of product and don't diminish cultural rites and customs on how blood is/has been collected. Think variety in menstrual materials (disposables, washable, cups etc). Do you have one donor? Great! But be cautious about giving them a monopoly in your project. Focus on stigma in your approach and do your preliminary investigation without any manufacturers involved.
Anything else you would like to add?
Have fun while working! Activists work way to hard to not have fun! Fun and trust guide us in everything we do at MPIA. With fun and trust as building blocks, we increase motivation, productivity, teamwork and collaboration.