Bleedin’ Saor: tackling period poverty and stigma

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Bleedin’ Saor logo. (Photo credit: Bleedin’ Saor)

Menstruation. TOM (Time of the month, FYI). The blob. Mother Nature’s gift. Whatever you call periods, they are sore. And bloody. Bloody sore, actually.

Aptly so then, that a non-profit student organisation that aims to dispel period poverty and stigma is called Bleedin’ Saor. Founders Brogan Henderson, Hannah Stevens and Sam Calder feel the name is perfect, both for the obvious nod to a woman’s monthly cramp-laden cycle and as saor translates to ‘free, without barriers’ in Gaelic.

Bleedin’ Saor is the design and social media branch of the collaborative A Bloody Big Project that includes Hey Girls – who are a buy one give one social enterprise – innovative marking team at Wire Media and the Bloody Big Brunch event enterprise.

The three Edinburgh Napier Product Design students have been commissioned with the task of designing dispensing stations to replace the ever-so appealing shabby cupboards that currently stock the free sanitary products at all three campuses. Tucked out of sight and reach, advertised with a singular poster limply hanging on by one pin, the current cupboards hardly help discourage the stigma and fail to make the products conveniently accessible.

Bleedin’ Saor and the university are keen to change that.

Next week, Hannah, Brogan and Sam will be trialling temporary sanitary stations to gage a public reaction, in order to design the ideal final solution. They have designed open, basket-like dispensing stations and hope for the final solutions to be situated at locations that have 24-hour multiple access points. Their goal is to bring freeness to a woman’s period – both in terms of cost and shame.

“There’s nothing wrong with the products being there, they don’t have to be hidden,” says Hannah. “We’ve focused on making it so that the products are there and where you can see them – we want people to get used to the fact that this is a normal thing.”

“It’s ridiculous there is still a stigma. Half the population experiences this and it’s a completely normal thing that women experience for 40 plus years of their lives,” says Brogan.

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Hannah, Sam and Brogan. (Photo credit: Rachel Lee)

Bleedin’ Saor also runs a social media campaign that invites people to leave their period stories, ask questions and banish the embarrassment.

“We want people to be able to celebrate their period, which is what we’re doing with our Period Blether project – its’ getting people to talk about it. A lot of people already have shared stories on our website,” says Brogan.

Periods are natural. Unavoidable. Uncomfortable. In a lifetime, a woman will endure around 450 periods and will lose about 12 teaspoons of blood during each cycle. A woman can find her periods to be painful and inconvenient; they needn’t be shameful and costly too.

The Scottish Government took a significant step in the long road to gender equality last year by pledging £5 million towards free sanitary products in all schools, colleges and universities. However, there is still work to be done to ensure that period poverty becomes a thing of the past.

Part of doing so, is opening up honest discussions about periods to all genders. By encouraging it to be universally viewed as a natural, taboo-less fact of life, it will hopefully allow products to be easily accessible and readily available.

“The biggest thing is that we want to raise awareness of it we want people to be comfortable enough to have that conversation” says Brogan.

Hannah adds, “It’s astounding that period poverty still exists in 2019. We have learnt so much since joining the project. We didn’t realise how big it was and that 1 in 5 girls in Scotland are not able to have access to products and therefore missing out in school and their friends by not having access to everything that they need.”

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Sam working on designs. (Photo credit: Bleedin’ Saor)

They hope that, with the new and improved sanitary stations, people will make full use of the free products.

“We don’t want you to just take one product as you need it, take enough to last you your whole period,” says Brogan.

The team say that the university has been greatly supportive of them. University leaders have supported the student’s designs and upcoming installations of the dispensary stations and have provided funding for a trip to Uganda this summer in which the students will observe the social aspects of periods and the design of reusable products.

Napier University has also allowed Bleedin’ Saor to host three across-campus Bloody Big Brunches on March 6th. The team will soon begin fundraising for the event which will welcome people to come together to chat all things period over everyone’s favourite mid-morning meal.

Whatever campus, whatever gender – Bleedin’ Saor is an organisation everyone should get behind.

You can support Bleedin Saor by following their Instagram @bleedinsaor and leaving feedback on the temporary sanitary stations from the 4th February onwards.

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