Reshaping the conversation about menstruation

Following her talk ‘Let’s Get the Nation Talking about Menstruation’ in 2018, we caught up with Victoria Heaney, who shares how this topic has been the catalyst for local and regional initiatives.

Her message continues to resonate with her intended audience, the Scottish nation and even across the world.  Here’s what Victoria had to say.

Some amazing and unexpected things have happened.  I’ve been inundated with responses to my talk from across the globe; men and women alike have been in touch saying they were unaware of the problem, suffer from period poverty or both. All are thankful to be given a voice, and many messages are from inspired individuals informing they’ve been spurred into action locally. I have found myself receiving high-fives from strangers on the street, proud to announce to the world ‘I have my period!’, it’s all hugely surreal but great. 

My TEDxGlasgow talk has been used as educational material at schools, with young students across Scotland realising there are girls in their own schools and communities struggling to afford period products.

Its has inspired some to take action, running charity drives to make their own impact and help their school friends. Similarly, the message being spread across schools and youth groups has led to a breakthrough event at the Glasgow Women’s Library where I was invited to meet a group of young people who created a whole event about period poverty. It was inspirational to see kids from a from a variety of cultural backgrounds speaking of inequality and stigma surrounding their biology. Such forward-thinking young men and women, it got me emotional! 

Many movements have helped to raise awareness, such as the girls from On The Ball who’s campaigning resulted in Celtic stadium and 88 other clubs putting period products into the ladies bathrooms at their stadiums. For me it has been unbelievable to see this action throughout Scotland with a within a male dominated sport. 

Additionally, I’ve learned of individuals inspired to act within their organisations, some sharing how they’ve encouraged HR departments to help women in their workplace with supplies, helping those unable to afford to care for their health. Dundee College has set up free dispensers in all of their bathrooms, so that women don’t need to worry about getting caught short or missing college as they can’t afford to buy period products. The Scottish Government have provided a £5 million pound scheme to enable all students in education to access to period products across all schools, colleges and Universities in Scotland – a great result for a whole generation.

victoria heaney

Being a TEDxGlasgow speaker has helped me validate that what I’ve been doing deserves a platform to heard. Speaking on stage has helped to shine a light on the issue of period poverty to more people in Scotland and Globally, it’s amplified my reach. 

I am definitely more confident in seeing myself as an expert in this field and I’ve been lucky to spread my message to Europe, Canada and America with more speaking opportunities, interviews and podcasts. My advice to anyone thinking of being a TEDx speaker is to go for it! Put yourself first and forward, don’t wait to be pushed, you’ve got nothing to lose.

As a result of my involvement with TEDxGlasgow, I’ve grown my international networks and even connected with Scottish diaspora, passionate Glaswegians as far away as Australia inviting me to talk there too! The TEDx community has connected with many wanting to talk about the digital landscape of period poverty and asked about more research too.

In the run up to the TEDxGlasgow I connected online with an amazing poet named Fleassy Malay who was preparing for a TEDxMelbourne. We helped each other overcome our imposter syndrome and nerves across continents and became friends through it.

Social change is an ongoing struggle and although 2018 was ‘the year of the period,’ it is up to the nation to keep the conversation going. My experience with TEDxGlasgow has helped to move the conversation forward and my current call to action would be about examining the choice of period products and more education. 

If an organic biodegradable product is used, that’s great, but if it’s manufactured in a country like China, by workers with limited rights or decent work conditions, and holds a carbon footprint, then how does that weigh up? We want to help the environment of course, but more often than not, the most environmentally conscious choice is not the most affordable.

As a pebble thrown into a large ocean, we have only begun to see the impact of ripples spreading across Scotland from an 8-minute talk about period poverty. With many amazing people also opening up the dialog on menstruation, taking action, there’s potential for ongoing positive impact for the future. Let’s make every year the year of the period!

Watch Victoria’s talk:

Victoria’s speaker experience has helped her to reshape the conversation about menstruation and address the epidemic of period poverty, now it’s over to pushing for an open dialog, not just about shame and stigma, but truly embedding periods into a normal part of discourse and conversation across all genders. 

Fantastic to hear the positive impact Victoria has made. Have you been inspired to act on Victoria’s talk, or any TEDxGlasgow speakers? Let us know what you’ve been doing at [email protected]

  • Written by Zeb Ahmed
  • Posted on July, 17 2019

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