North Wales woman shares her experiences of endometriosis as new plan unveiled to ensure period dignity in Wales
A North Wales woman has shared her experiences with living with endometriosis as part of a new plan to eradicate period poverty and ensure period dignity in Wales.
Menstrual health campaigner Anna Cooper, 28, from Wrexham has a stoma bag and catheter due to the effects of widespread endometriosis, a condition linked to menstruation.
The long terms condition causes tissue – similar to the lining of the womb – to grow in other places, such as the fallopian tubes and ovaries.
It can cause painful periods, chronic back and stomach pain, difficulty getting pregnant and can take years for an accurate diagnosis
Amy has shared her story as the Welsh Government release an action plan to ensure period dignity and eradicate period poverty across Wales.
“It’s incredibly important for us to break down the taboo surrounding periods and menstrual well-being,” she said.
“I was diagnosed two weeks before my 18th birthday, but had been told from an early age that I needed to toughen up & painful periods was part of being a woman.
“Normalising painful periods is detrimental and dangerous. I was diagnosed with stage four when I was still a teenager but yet was dismissed for years through my early teens. I was dismissed by my teachers, friends and medical professionals.
“I was never told or taught what a normal period should be or the warning signs to look out for if they were not. This is why I believe so strongly in menstrual well-being education being taught in schools to all pupils to make them aware of the importance of knowing what to look out for with your menstrual health.
“It’s important that we prioritise our menstrual health as much as any other part of our physical health.
“As a society we need to stop making women feel as if it’s normal to suffer in severe pain with periods. It’s not okay to normalise pain. This is why menstrual well-being education is vital for future generations.
“We need to stop the stigma to reduce the amount of those who suffer in silence for years.”
Research shows 15 per cent of girls in Wales aged 14 to 21 have been unable to afford period products at some point, almost half of girls are embarrassed to talk about periods and over a quarter didn’t know what to do when their period started – issues which the Welsh Government says it is working to tackle.
Outlining the aims of the Period Dignity Strategic Action Plan – which is now open for consultation – Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt said: “Periods are an issue for us all – we either have them or know someone who does.
“No-one should be disadvantaged because of their period and periods must never be a reason that a person misses out on education, employment or social activity. Everyone should have access to good quality period products, to use in a private space that is safe and dignified.
“That is why we are launching our Period Dignity Strategic Action Plan today; setting out a vision to eradicate period poverty, end the stigma around periods and achieve period dignity in Wales.”
Advancing gender equality and putting an equality focus at the centre of all it does is a key aspect of the Wales’ Programme for Government.
The Plan cuts across many areas of government, including health and education, and shares a vision to ensure that by 2026 Wales is a nation where periods are fully understood, accepted and normalised; where it is widely recognised periods are not a choice and period products are not a luxury.
Molly Fenton, from Cardiff, runs the Love Your Period campaign which looks at issues related to periods and period dignity.
The 19 year-old, who recently won a St David’s Award for her work, said: “The Love Your Period Campaign looks at all matters around menstruation and fights against them in a safe, gender inclusive environment that everyone deserves to have.
“I’ve been called “Wales’ big sister” due to my work to eradicate period poverty and stigma, whilst ensuring menstruation education which is so vital for everyone to know – whether they menstruate or not.
“Projects we’ve done include; homeless collections, providing reusable products for NHS staff throughout the pandemic, LGBTQIA+ support and an advice line for parents as well as children. We’ve also assisted with menstruation education in primary schools across Cardiff, helping every school find the best way to use the Welsh Government’s Period Dignity Scheme for their unique set of pupils.
“The Welsh Government’s next step to helping ensure period dignity, their action plan, is very welcome and I would ask everyone to send in their views to help shape Wales’ future on a topic that really does affect everyone.”
Concluding, the Minister also outlined the importance of the action plan and its commitment to involve all communities in building a fairer, more equal Wales.
She said: “We want equitable access to period products across Wales and, crucially, to end the stigma, taboos and myths which exist around periods.
“We’re committed to ensuring no-one is ashamed or embarrassed about periods and can speak openly and confidently about them.”
“This plan specifically aims to be intersectional, in that it considers period dignity for those with additional protected characteristics and seeks to make provision for additional challenges or cultural requirements.
“It is vitally important we now hear from as broad a range of people in Wales as we can.
“I’m keen to ensure we reach out to women, young people, older people, non-binary, intersex and trans people, disabled people, people of various faiths and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people to ensure the plan considers the range of issues associated with having a period.
“We want a national and inclusive conversation about the impact periods can have across a person’s life course so that we can mitigate these impacts, end the stigma and normalise attitudes around menstruation.”
You can view the Welsh Government’s Period Dignity Strategic Action Plan here. To follow the conversation in Wales, search for #TakeActionPeriod #MislifPositif
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