So much for the taboos and the fears of talking about my period. As I aged and looked menopause in the eyes, the fact was driven home, in the near future, the woman’s only form of blood flow that’s not associated with an injury would depart and leave me with memories.
I decided that I had already been in love with my period after a very irregular cycle as an adolescent and then a super regular cycle likened to clockwork and with all the feelings - craving the spices of life, having the super emotional days and of course feeling them ovaries at play - painfully sweet.
I then decided that it was also time to open up discussions that connected the dots between my work as a Breast Health Educator and it was serendipity that would send the timely invitation, a recommendation from Franka Philip, on behalf of local advertising agency Lonsdale Saatchi and Saatchi Trinidad, to support the Always Like a Girl Campaign and lead the panel discussions during the national school tours, along with the nominated girl advocates - all Trinbagonian girls.
It was a liberating moment and one that also allowed me to share deep conversations about the freedom that girls in my native country of Trinidad and Tobago, and by extension the wider Caribbean had never and would never encounter - that of period poverty.
In 2015, visiting South Africa as a Vital Voices VVLead Fellow, I was exposed to period poverty and the many stories of girls in Asian and African countries being denied the opportunity for education and access to enjoying their femininity, all due to period poverty.
It was traumatic to listen and it was also a moment of pure humility as I sat in a room of global women leaders - sisters and I wept at numerous intervals for a total of almost a week - tears of indifference, tears of being overwhelmed and tears of utter gratitude.
On day two of our Peer to Peer exchange, I remember being scolded by my sister Veronica Kette - a Cameroonian Advocate, Educator and Social Impact Leader, whose role was actually empowering and abolishing period poverty. It was my first encounter and her words never left me as she asked me “why are you crying” in her strongest accent - to which I had absolutely no response.
I had actually never felt so much guilt and privilege at the same time. It was actually a horrifying moment for me to think that I had all access as a girl growing up in my native Trinidad and Tobago and there were women in the same room with me who were all Social Impact Leaders, but many had been touched by the limitations of truly being free to develop. Here I was, a Caribbean Woman advocating from Breast Health and Awareness, yet missing the point of what true fighting was all about - by virtue of my geography, history, social upbringing and most of all, my freedom.
It was Allison Shapira, Zoe Dean-Smith and Kathleen Holland who all came to my “rescue” advising Veronica that I had not been crying out of weakness, but out of a sense of overwhelming - these women were after all, intuitively attuned to some of what I was feeling and joined our room full of sisters in solidarity - a room filled with those who had been affected by the lack of the basic freedom of allowing dignity to reign during a natural cycle of life.
Today I have graduated from the overwhelming sentiments and have been so moved by the many partnerships and experiences that I have since had the opportunities to support. In 2017 at the time of the natural crises of earthquakes and flooding, the generosity of our collaborative partners Vital Voices Fellows at Period.org served me as another humbling personal example of how much access girls still Have in the Caribbean region. We had been gifted a small number of menstrual cups that we were able to donate to populations who were already facing the challenge of managing their period with dignity - albeit not to the extent of not being allowed that dignity and right all of their lives.
Fast-forward to my still enjoyable periods of contentment, where I await the cyclical empowering experiences of cravings, mood management and dancing ovaries - where I have now felt the exhalation of graduating to allowing more hygienic and discreet use of the menstrual cup - introduced to me in 2015 and resisted use until when I was professionally tooled to become an educator with by my Period friends.
Today as I sit and share my more than empowering sense of liberation as a girl growing up in the Caribbean, it is not that I am no longer sensitive to that struggle so many still face, but that my gratitude is such that I still cry and my cup still feels filled to an overwhelming proportion when I think of the girls who will one day have more access that we can ever imagine!
I am not going to stop talking about my period to appease anyone who thinks it is offensive!
Sorry NOT Sorry - Period!