Career, Engineering, Yvette

Menstruation Equality


“Happy International Women’s Day!”  It always seems to me to be a weird statement with not quite the right sentiment…  “Happy” is the wrong word.  Perhaps, “Have a Powerful/Inspiring/Above Average International Women’s Day?”

This year’s theme, according to UN Women, is “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights” so perhaps a more fitting greeting is:

“May your fight for:
an end to gender-based violence;
economic justice;
sexual and reproductive health and rights;
gender equality;
and feminist leadership be fruitful!”

Previous IWD celebrations I’ve attended have often focused on individual self-improvement as the method of raising women as a whole.  However, this year for IWD, our workplace event was focused on Share the Dignity, an Australian charitable organisation that distributes sanitary items to vulnerable women, girls and people who menstruate.

And please don’t misunderstand me.  The last thing I want to do is to make any woman feel guilty for spending energy on themself when we are conditioned by society to constantly cater for everyone else’s needs but our own.  It’s just that period poverty is a very significant issue affecting the lives of many women and girls and I welcome the opportunity to make someone else’s life a little bit easier using the privilege that I find myself with in this situation, in the way that I have been assisted when I have needed it, in the spirit of my favourite feminist gif by Libby Vader Ploeg:


Having a period can be pretty awful, even when you’ve got a bathroom cabinet full of pads, but Share the Dignity reports that without access to sanitary items, people are using newspapers, toilet paper or socks when they menstruate, and many girls are missing school because they cannot afford sanitary products, limiting their ability to break the poverty cycle through education.

We were fortunate enough to have Share the Dignity CEO, Deborah Ferguson, join us for morning tea to speak about the works of their charity.  Throughout March, collection points are set up at Woolworths and other nominated businesses, like ours, to allow for donations of products to be made.  Share the Dignity also have other initiatives such as their Dignity Vending Machines, DigniTea events and “It’s in the Bag” Drive in November.

Our office is quite small, and it makes the gender gap seem less obvious because although there are a small number of women, there are actually only a small number of men too.  It also means that we know each other quite well and often have quite frank discussions over the kitchen table about issues to do with gender equality (and other social justice matters).  While we ate our delicious, IWD branded cupcakes, we reflected on the progress and struggles of women in engineering.  I was asked about the percentages of female students in my university class compared with our current graduate’s (unfortunately, it did not seem to be greatly improved in the 10 years between us) and my boss recounted being the first ever woman signalling engineer in their office when she joined Queensland Rail!

It seems we are still on the journey towards equality, with an ability to reflect with gratitude on how far we have come but also with a desire to arrive at our destination.

So on this day, and every day, may your fight for:
an end to gender-based violence;
economic justice;
sexual and reproductive health and rights;
gender equality;
and feminist leadership be fruit (and cupcake)-full!

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