Global Roundup: Fighting Period Poverty in China and Gender Norms in Ghana, and a Victory for Non-Binary People in Canada

Compiled and written by Lauren MacDonald

Photo by uklabour/Instagram via Pink News

The stigma surrounding periods is universal. Patriarchal norms have made menstruation a taboo topic around the world. In China, a grassroots campaign is pushing back by targeting against period poverty. Starting in one middle school classroom, and in over 300 schools, bags and boxes of pads are appearing outside of bathrooms. The campaign has two dimensions: provide access to period products for those who may not be able to afford them, and to erase shame associated with what is a natural bodily function. It uses a form of paying it forward—the boxes and bags of individually wrapped pad each carried a version of the same instructions:

Take one, then put one back later. Stop period shaming.

The campaign was founded by Jiang Jinjing who is a women’s rights activist. Jiang received attention when in March she mobilized deliveries of pads to hospitals in Wuhan at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an interview published in September by the online Shanghai magazine Sixth Tone, Jiang Jinjing, who is more widely known by her pen name Liang Yu, said she used to believe that menstrual products were inaccessible only in impoverished rural Chinese provinces, but soon realized that the phenomenon was widespread.

This is so-called women’s poverty…When we talk about poverty, women’s needs become automatically invisible - Liang Yu

Period poverty is a widespread phenomenon experienced by many people. Coupled with the stigma surrounding periods it can be very harmful towards women and girls and people who menstruate. This patriarchal construction starts in the classroom, where girls are taught menstruating is ‘indecent’ and ‘dirty’. Campaigns such as Jiang’s will help break barriers for women in China, and around the world. 

—————————

Women's rights campaigners worldwide have warned of an increase in online abuse as COVID-19 confines many people to home [File: Lucas Jackson/Reuters] via Al Jazeera

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many of us increasingly online. For women and girls, that has meant an increase in online abuse. The abuse has shown up in different ways, such as rape threats and being exploited for porn. Women’s rights groups warned online abuse was on the rise even before the pandemic, but once the pandemic hit it was only exacerbated.

According to Plan International,  1 in 5 girls have reported reducing their social media use or quitting for reasons due to the abuse they received online. The issue with online abuse is that it is oftentimes not taken as seriously as it would if such abuse happened offline. Abuse is abuse and women deserve to be able to equally participate online without being faced with insurmountable amounts of abuse and misogyny. 

————————

Image via Amnesty International

Survivors of domestic violence in eastern Ukraine are not able to seek protection against violence against them due to the government’s ineffective response, Amnesty International has said in a report on the hidden but escalating problem of domestic and sexual violence against women in the region.

In the report called Not a Private Matter, the human rights group highlights various flaws in a system that is meant to protect survivors.

The situation is worsened by devastating social and economic crises, access to weaponry, and trauma created by the ongoing armed conflict between the government of Ukraine and Russia-backed separatists.

It is desperate that women, whose lives are already severely affected by trauma and destruction caused by the conflict, find themselves without recourse to assistance and failed by the authorities who have a responsibility to protect them from domestic and sexual violence…Women living in conflict-affected eastern Ukraine do not feel safe – neither in public nor at home - Oksana Pokalchuk, Director of Amnesty International Ukraine.

Amnesty has called on Ukrainian authorities carry out swift and comprehensive legal reforms and to consult with survivors and women’s organizations to ensure that such reforms protect survivors of gender-based and domestic violence.

—————————-

A non-binary Pride flag is shown in this stock photo. On Nov. 2, Nova Scotia's Medical Services Insurance began covering breast reduction surgery for non-binary individuals. (Cannibal3D/Shutterstock )

The Canadian province of Nova Scotia’s Medical Services Insurance (MSI) has begun covering breast reduction surgery for non-binary individuals. This change in policy follows a complaint that was filed last fall to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission by Sebastian Gaskarth, who is non-binary. Gaskarth said they were "relieved" about the change in coverage. 

I'm really happy about it…I'm so glad to see it on their website and that others will look at it and be like, 'This finally is here.' And it just affirms who I am as a person and for [whoever] else needs the surgery as well - Sebastian Gaskarth

This is not just a logistical win for the Nova Scotia non-binary community, it is also a win in the sense that MSI now recognizes that gender is not binary. In previous cases, eligibility was assessed on the basis of transitioning from one gender to the other. Now, those who identify outside of the gender binary are included. Gaskarth also mentions they would like to see this notion progress even further, to a place where eligibility criteria are less rigid and more flexible to be accessible to even more people. This change is a step towards providing all Nova Scotians with appropriate and equitable access to medical coverage. 

—————————

In the male-dominated industry of trucking, Ghana’s Ladybird Logistics is challenging gender norms by being the first trucking firm to hire women only. Starting with only 11 drivers in 2017, the company has since grown to employ 35 female drivers with 14 more in intensive training.

Ladybird driver Amira Nana Agyeman says the work is empowering and shows the importance of giving women equal access to opportunities traditionally occupied by men.

You can’t recruit only men. We’ve got families to feed, and what if my husband is the only person who brings income and then he is sick? So, I bring income, he also brings income. It helps the society. It helps the country - Amira Nana Agyeman

Women employed by the firm deliver fuel to mining sights across Ghana. In the beginning, the business was disregarded by men in the profession, but since then, support from Ghanaian men has increased. Although representation cannot be the only factor when challenging patriarchy, Ladybird Logistics clearly demonstrates its importance.

Share

————————-

Lauren MacDonald is a third-year student at the University of Ottawa studying International Development and Globalization with a minor in Women's Studies and a settler on traditional Mi'kmaq land. Looking to pursue a career in urban planning/community development, she is interested in gaining as much feminist knowledge as possible in her academics to help build more healthy and equitable communities in the future. She is delighted at the opportunity to shed light on everything feminism around the globe through FEMINIST GIANT!