Postcards

The beginnings

Panties with Purpose started off as a campaign in 2011 to help a thousand girls in Kibera with four pairs of pants and menstrual products and to raise awareness about girls in poor areas of Kenya missing five days a month of school because of no access to menstrual products.

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Autobiography of an anthology

Over three years I made numerous lists, asking myself many questions. Who should be in the book? What new perspective will they bring? Are they the best person to tell that story? Period Matters has been a labour of love.

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Sadan Shah Dargah

The homeless women I interviewed lived here. They were very hesitant to talk about their periods, saying it was a private matter and if their husbands saw them talking to me, and found out they were discussing such personal issues, they would say their wives had brought dishonour to the family. We went behind the shrine and one of them talked more openly to me.

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Pre-launch

On the 22nd of May 2022, Period Matters was pre-launched as part of International Menstrual Hygiene Day celebrations, at LUMS, a university in Lahore. The cover was revealed with an explanation of its art work, made by Lyla FreeChild with her menstrual blood. Amna Mawaz Khan’s menstrual dance, commissioned for the book, was shown publicly for the first time…

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Street vendors in Karachi

I interviewed these women sitting on the pavement selling dried fruits outside the main city market in Karachi. They laughed when I asked for their permission to speak to them about my book and the research I was doing, saying ‘foreigners’ are interested in the strangest of things…

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Opening up the conversation

The way we tell and share our stories about menstruation, whether it be through fiction or essays, art or dance, are ways in which we open up the conversation. I first came across Shashi Deshpande’s novels in the eighties when I was living in Kenya. When I read about the protagonist Saru menstruating in The Dark Holds No Terrors, I was shocked…

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Paper Boat

In 2018 I came across To Die in Benares, a short story collection by K Madavane, translated from the French by Blake Smith and really loved his story Paper Boat.

I wrote him an email telling him why his story moved me so much, and we began a correspondence about writing…

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Period Table

Getting your period is, for many, filled with anxiety. Waiting for your period is also nerve wracking. And not getting it and finding out you’re pregnant can be either a terrifying or happy event. It all depends on your circumstances. I drew up this simple Period Table while thinking of the devastating consequences on so many women with the overturning of Roe vs Wade…

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Hot Mango Chutney Sauce

I interviewed these four young women outside a shrine in the city centre of Multan. I explained I was researching a book on menstruation and wanted to ask them some questions. They were very friendly at first and suggested I take a photo of them. They said they were willing to share openly…

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International Menstrual Hygiene Day 2018

Every year on International Menstrual Hygiene Day, PwP supported a community based organisation with its efforts towards ending period poverty by providing them with underpants.

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Menstrual and Reproductive Health Training

Our outreach work in Kenya has included school, hospitals, prisons and orphanages. We have worked with a variety of community and faith based organisations and done distributions at mosques, temples, and churches.

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Girls Soccer Clubs in Kibera

Playing sports while having your period has always been a problem for girls. There is research and data from the Youth Sport Trust which shows over the last three years, periods have become the biggest concern for girls when doing PE in school. A total of 37% o girls interviewed said periods stopped them from getting active in school last year, up from 27% in 2018-19. 

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The Great P n P Blast

On Friday 30th September 2011, my sisters and I, together with the Kenyan artist and singer Iddi Achieng, organised a music concert, The Great Panties and Pads Blast,  at the Alliance Francaise Garden in Nairobi.

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Work in the rural areas of Kenya

One of our partners in the early years of our work was The Path to Womanhood Foundation. They concentrated their work in Kiserian, where the Maasai live. On several occasions we donated underpants and sanitary pads, and PWF organised menstrual and reproductive health workshops for the women and young girls.

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Pantometer

When we started the Panties with Purpose campaign in 2011 to raise awareness about period poverty and help poor school girls in Kenya, we found ourselves with supporters from all over the world. This wonderful Pantometer was designed by a group of Girl Guides at a school in Vancouver, BC. They raised over a 1000 pairs of underpants and sent them across to us.

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Working in prisons

One event which has stayed in my mind since we began our work with Panties with Purpose, is the day when we did our first distribution at the Langata Prison, in Nairobi. It was a long drawn out process to gain permission to enter the prison, because the authorities had never had a donor who wanted to give pants and sanitary pads. Finally we received approval and taking enough underpants to help 1000 inmates, we went to the prison on the appointed day.

 

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Working with Older Women

While most of the work of Panties with Purpose has been concentrated on supporting girls in school, we have from time to time worked with older women. The plight of the poor, aged woman, especially one who has a disability or an illness, is one that is not often talked about. Leave aside that she might be experiencing all the terrible symptoms of menopause, she is extremely vulnerable.

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The Goddess Dezalik

In my essay on the menstruation experience of the women in the Kalasha community, I write about their goddess Dezalik. She is believed to have all her powers dedicated to looking after women’s welfare and health. During times of difficulty, for instance, during a difficult labour or pregannacy, the Kalasha women throw walnuts at her wooden statue and pray for her intercession.

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Getting Young People Involved

In my Introduction of Period Matters, I talk about my young nieces being involved in Panties with Purpose. They are helping to raise awareness and funds towards alleviating period poverty. What is heartening is that they are able to speak to their peers, both girls and boys, with confidence about menstruation as a normal, natural bodily process.

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