We are delighted to share a blog written by student Kyeong-Min, from The British International School, Abu Dhabi, who participated in the GSL World Catalyst @Home in February-March 2021.
The aim of my project is to fight the global issue of period poverty, and the general myths, stigmas and secrecy surrounding menstruation. The lack of awareness on the essential health services women all around the world require is intolerable, and it feels ridiculous to me, that when half the world’s population menstruate, only 12% of them have access to sanitary products.
This is why I have decided to work on two projects, aimed at two different audiences. One for the un-opinionated, unexposed children of the generation, who can grow up to lead a society different to the one we live in, and the other, for the passionate teenagers who have an insight of the future and are capable of making change.
For my first project, I chose to eliminate stigmas surrounding periods by education. I’ve always been a passionate writer, so I was inspired to write and illustrate a children’s storybook. However, despite my purpose, the last thing I wanted to do was write one of those typical books that children read once solely due to their parents’ encouragement, for it to be never picked up again voluntarily. Instead, I wanted children to shout “again, mummy, again!” when they’d finished the book. After days of thinking, I came up with an idea to change the stages of the menstrual cycle into an adventure journey of an ovum, transforming the ovary into a village, the fallopian tube into a metro line, the hormones into personality-filled characters, and so on. The book is currently in the process of being reviewed by editors, and when it is published, I hope it will inspire children all around the world.
My second project is called “The Period Poverty Pixel Project”. The aim of this project is to get 528 people to take action against period poverty and start a ripple effect that will grow into a global movement. The significance of the number 528 is to do with the average number of days of a menstrual cycle 28 days, and how long the menstruation period lasts, which is five days. This project began when I realized that realistically, I could not make a huge change on my own. I was stuck. There was a lot that I could do… but I knew everyone was too busy getting on with their lives, that a boring mediocre project would not grab the attention of anyone in the 21st century. I couldn’t settle on something dull, and that’s when a colorful idea came to mind. I wanted to organize a project where people could collaborate as a global community, regardless of where they are in the world, to create an image of 52800 pixels. Some people might criticize me and say, “but anyone can download a color-by-pixel app and color in a picture,” but I believe there’s a clear difference between that and creating a meaningful artwork as a global body.
With these pixels, we can visualize where we are, how far we’ve come, and how achievable it is to motivate someone. Although it’s only a picture to some, there is a strong scientific basis for how and why visualization works. We stimulate the same regions of the brain when we visualize something and when we actually do it; there’s a reason why imagery and detailed descriptions are essential to literature. It’s simple. Humans need to see things with their own eyes to believe it coming true. Seeing is believing. And seeing that we can create this pixelated picture together, we believe in the power of collaboration.
I faced many challenges during these projects, one of them being the planning. Coming up with an idea was something I could only do by myself, no one and no website on the internet could come up with something original for me, it was my job alone. This was time consuming, and to say the least, stressful. Another challenge that came along with this was my fear of failure and embarrassment. I felt belittled and overwhelmed by the fact that there were already so many influencers out there, with far more innovative ideas than mine, and this was my biggest struggle, especially because my projects involved and required an overwhelming amount of creativity, especially the book.
So, I brought up the courage, decided to start these projects, then had a second moment of realization: I severely lacked knowledge on the topic of menstruation and the magnitude of the issues I was supposed to be fighting against. There was no way around it – I had to teach myself everything, from the scientific aspects of the menstrual cycle to the social issues revolving around period poverty, reading articles and watching YouTube videos day and night, trying to absorb as much information as possible.
After this, I felt confident enough to begin writing my book, start illustrating the characters the way I imagined them, and eventually, I sent my manuscript to the publishers. Whilst awaiting feedback, I began my second project, and created a social media account to spread the initiative more efficiently, as the majority of my target audience actively use social media platforms. I have been actively interviewing people, gathering opinions and quotes. At the moment, I am putting most effort into creating original content that will attract more people to take part in my challenge and increasing my reach so I can make the project go around worldwide.
In conclusion, there were countless moments of “I really can’t do this, why did I think I could in the first place?”, but thanks to the support of my friends, teachers and family, I have come this far, developing a lot of skills on the way, such as communication, organization, research and problem solving. These skills were crucial for each step in my projects and will be for my future achievements too.
The Next Chapter
I believe the next steps I need to take in order to meet the aims of my project is to expand the outreach and the level of engagement, so the message is delivered to as many people as possible. I feel as though this shouldn’t be too difficult if we work together, I only have around 150 followers on my Instagram page, but if every one of those followers can spread the word to three people, then that’s already 450, and if some of those people do the same, then the remaining 78 shouldn’t be a problem.
My call to action for everyone reading this would be to get involved in my project and other world issues that we are facing, because awareness is vital. When you turn your back to the issues we are facing, you are relying on others to assure your living standards and the future society that we and the younger generations will live in. Change seems like such a big word, that we forget that our small actions inflict change.
I recommend for others my age to contribute to similar projects, because we are full of potential and we, teenagers, often limit ourselves thinking that we are not able enough. I was the same. Before this project, I thought, ‘how am I going to bring up the courage to publicly share my thoughts and lead others to take action if I’m scared of being judged in my day-to-day life?’ But I realized, I had to overcome this and take things into my own hands. We can’t say that we care about period poverty, racial injustice, gender inequality and all of these things, and sit back and wait for someone else to make a difference.
Lastly, a lot of people think of my project as something inspiring because I’m “making a change voluntarily”, and of course, I am flattered to hear these kind words, but I am only able to do this because I am in the position to, as someone who is privileged enough to have education and access to the internet, because I know so many others around the world would do the same if they were privileged enough to. It’s the same how children growing up in MEDCs are given rewards for eating all the vegetables on their plate, when children in LEDCs who can’t afford to be picky eaters don’t get any rewards. Yes, I am choosing to do something that no one told me to do for the sheer reason of my passion, but I should not receive all these compliments and praise because it’s not only due to myself. It’s due to the environment and opportunities I have.
Regardless of whether we are recognised and praised for things or not, I think everyone should try to do as much as they can. This is my belief, and I hope this leads people to start taking action.