Escarpment Road District of Churches women's movement on mission to 'End Period Poverty'Sunday, October 24, 2021
KINGSTON, Jamaica – Recognising that many girls and women in Jamaica cannot afford menstrual products, the Escarpment Road District of Churches women's movement will be donating sanitary napkins as part of its 'End Period Poverty Campaign'.
Period poverty - the phenomena whereby women and girls cannot afford menstrual products - was brought to the fore locally by CEO of Her Flow Foundation, Shelly-Ann Weeks, who has staged campaigns geared towards bringing awareness to the difficulties faced by some females in that regard.
Using her programme as an inspiration, Loreene Pinnock, the Escarpment Road District of Churches women's movement president, said the idea came about to have a drive to acquire sanitary products for females not only across the church district, but across Jamaica.
Ronamae Bradford, president of the women's ministry at the Papine New Testament Church of God --- one of the four churches that comprise the Escarpment Road District of Churches --- shared how the church started its own campaign.
"The campaign really started after Miss Shelly-Ann Weeks of the Her Flow Foundation came and did a presentation at my church... in June [of this year] and made us aware of the whole period proverty issue that is affecting a lot of our Jamaican girls and women," she said.
"During that presentation she shared with us a story of a young girl who she had met and interacted with, who would wear one sanitary napkin for the duration of her menstrual cycle because she could not afford menstrual product," she added.
That aspect of the presentation stuck with Bradford and, after speaking with Pinnock, the drive to acquire sanitary items began over a three month period, commencing in July and ending in September.
According to Pinnock, over 3,500 sanitary napkins have been acquired so far and more will be coming in.
Several companies also donated to the efforts of the women's movement, including Lasco, Grace Kennedy/Consumer Brands, and B.W. Traders 2020. Additionally, there were other local and international donors, as well as members of the church district who donated to the cause.
"The support was overwhelming because a lot of persons, their feedback was that they didn't know that period poverty was an issue, because to be honest it was not something that they thought about," commented Bradford.
With Period Awareness Day falling on a no-movement day, Sunday, distributions of packages of sanitary napkins will instead commence on Monday, according to Bradford.
"We will be targeting women who are in our shelters, girls who are in Children's Homes and girls from rural high schools as well," she shared.
Among the stops on the distribution tour are downtown Kingston; Yadel Home for Girls in Old Harbour Bay, St Catherine; the Women's Centre Foundation of Jamaica; Mavis Bank High School; and the George's Plain community in Westmoreland.
The church district has also benefited from the drive launched by its women's movement.
"What we have done is that we did the drive and all across the churches in our district we have sanitary napkins now in our bathrooms," Pinnock said, adding that custom-made napkin dispensers will be installed to ensure easier access of these products for female congregants.
In addition to Papine New Testament Church of God, the Escarpment Road District of Churches comprises the Mountain View, Kintyre and Escarpment Road New Testament Churches of God.
The communities where these churches are located will also be targeted for packages to be distributed to women, Pinnock noted, adding that, in the future, donations of sanitary products will be made to the Her Flow Foundation, which was an inspiration to the church district.
In the meantime, Pinnock encouraged other church groups to aspire to conduct similar drives and donations to support females who face challenges in affording sanitary napkins.
"We want other churches to see what we did and other organisations, because the more persons who come on board, the better is for our ladies in Jamaica," she pointed out.
She continued, "There are many ladies in need and they can't even purchase a pack of sanitary napkins."
For Bradford, supporting the End Period Poverty Campaign is "important", while she called on others to also join the initiative in their own companies or churches.
In elaborating, she said: "Even if it is they don't do a large scale drive like this, if everybody starts within their organisation by making sanitary products available in their bathrooms, then that would go a long way because you can't look at a woman and know that she is in need.
"We know how stigmatised periods are; it's not something they would want to readily highlight, as believe it or not in 2021, we see a lot of period shame, but this is a normal bodily function that women have no control of whether you are rich or poor," declared Bradford.
"I believe that each of us has a role to play in our organizations to make sanitary products free for all to access. Condoms are free [but] sex is a choice. Periods aren't a choice, so we ought to have a system in place where everybody is able to access sanitary products," she charged.
Bradford, in the meantime, lauded those who contributed to the campaign led by the Escarpment Road District of Churches.
"We just want to thank everybody who would have donated and who would have supported the cause.
"We just want to encourage others to start where they are; whether they're local businesses or church bathrooms, just to allow for sanitary products to be easily accessible to women from all walks of life, so that there is no need to fear or worry when that time of the month comes," she appealed.