Periodically Speaking!

Nicole Joseph-Chin
Posted May 28, 2019
Mama Breast and Mama Moon Cup! Veronica and Nicole in Johannesburg 2015
Like A Girl School Tour Trinidad and Tobago
Like A Girl School Tour Trinidad and Tobago (1/1)

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!

This story was submitted in response to Menstruation Matters.

Comments 10

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Jill Langhus
May 28
May 28

Hi Nicole,

How are you doing, lovely? Thanks for sharing a different perspective on the menstruation story. I hope you're overcome feeling guilty for the privileges that you grew up with? The important thing is that you are helping so many women know to become more educated and empowered, every day... you are part of the change, and it's lovely that you're so empathetic to other women. I don't see or hear enough empathy being shown on a daily basis. And, yes, always keep talking, dear... always:-)

Nicole Joseph-Chin
May 28
May 28

Thank you Jill. It was a privilege that I was unaware of, until the radical exposure with real women who had first hand experiences. Nothing humbles you more than seeing someone who has lived through an experience and fight for others not to do the same.
Thank you!

Jill Langhus
May 28
May 28

You're welcome:-) I hear you! I can imagine.

Hope you have a great week!

Lisbeth
May 28
May 28

Hi sis. Nicole,
I would have done same if I was in the same situation as yours. Its normal, we are told to weep with those who weep. Your story was encouraging to listened to.
Keep up the good work of speaking up and one day we shall over our challenges.
Thanks for sharing, and I hope you are doing fine? HMH Day to you.

Nicole Joseph-Chin
May 31
May 31

Lisbeth,
The exposure and experience were so new to me, so enlightening yet so far from my human comprehension. I'm so humbled by these life lessons and new sisters and brothers who are bent on changing the experience of the future.

Hello, Nicole,

I love reading your posts. You really write well ,and very smart with using your words. I love how you describe menstrual blood as "woman’s only form of blood flow that’s not associated with an injury". This is so true.

I would have cried, too, if i were there. There is nothing wrong about expressing our emotions. It's a sign of vulnerability, and vulnerability connects us with other human beings. I'm glad you found support from other women, too.

I agree with Jill that you don't need to feel guilty with the privileges you have. You are doing your part and purpose well. Many people benefited from you because you used your expertise, resources, and experiences responsibly well.

I love how your title, and how you end this article with a bang! Period!

Please continue sharing your journey. I'm a fan.

Nicole Joseph-Chin
May 31
May 31

Karen,
You're welcome! Thank you for your encouragement and your kind perspectives on my writing. Thanks for taking the time to stop by to read AND to share such sentiments.

Truth is, dear Nicole, the pleasure is mine. Can’t wait to read your next story.

Sister Zeph
Jun 05
Jun 05

My dear Nicole, you are a wonderful lady, you will never stop talking about such taboos, I know you, I have never seen such strong lady as you are, who does not only stand for own rights, but is always there to help other women too

Nicole Joseph-Chin
Jun 09
Jun 09

Thank you so much for your thoughts Sister Seph. I help because I have been helped and I see how tiny ripples can make waves. Collectively if we continue, it sure does add to changing conditions for few or many.
Let's keep making our tiny ripples accumulate to make changes happen positively.