Walking the Camino de Santiago to Raise Awareness of Period Stigma

by | Sep 21, 2021

A canvas pouch with menstrual pads spilling out.

Last updated on April 23rd, 2022

Let’s Join Together to Increase Awareness Around Period Poverty

By Carolyn Ray, Editor-in-Chief, Publisher, JourneyWoman

Over the past year, we have been donating proceeds from our social events and book clubs to non-profit organizations requested by our speakers. Thanks to you, JourneyWomen have donated thousands of dollars in support of education, medical research, food and animal conservation. Organizations like Feeding America, Food Banks of Canada, Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter, Education for All, and Gems for Gems.

 From October 1-10, I’ll walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain as a guest of Wild Women Expeditions. As I hiked the PEI Camino, it occurred to me that I could help the women by supporting a cause – but what cause? 

After many discussions with women in the JourneyWoman community, I’ve decided to walk the Camino in support of The Period Purse, a non-profit registered charity that strives to achieve menstrual equity and reduce the stigma surrounding periods. As I go through menopause, I’ve become more connected to my period and to my body than ever before. I can’t imagine not having access to menstrual products or being limited in my career options – can you?  But this is the case in many countries, where period stigma limits women and girls from education and career opportunities.

The average woman has her period for 2,535 days of her life. That’s nearly seven years’ time of making sure you have a pad or tampon, finding a makeshift solution if you don’t, and managing pain and discomfort. (Source: The New York Times). 

“Menstruation is intrinsically related to human dignity – when people cannot access safe bathing facilities and safe and effective means of managing their menstrual hygiene, they are not able to manage their menstruation with dignity. Gender inequality, extreme poverty, humanitarian crises and harmful traditions can all turn menstruation into a time of deprivation and stigma, which can undermine womens’ fundamental human rights. This is true for women and girls, as well as for transgender men and nonbinary persons who menstruate.” (Source: United Nations Population Fund).

Make a donation to support my Camino walk here. 

The Period Purse has a “sponsor a menstruator” program that has a goal of helping 200 people a month. For only $15 (the same price of a few lattes or a bottle of wine), you will bring free period products to someone in need every single month!


Period Inequity Affects Women Around the World 

This is an area that is never (or rarely) talked about in travel, yet I found that many of us have experienced it in our travels. Amanda, our editor, witnessed period stigma in Ethiopia. Marillee Carroll, on our advisory committee, learned first-hand about the issue from a group of women while visiting Kenya, where girls are staying home and missing school due to the lack of sanitary products! 

Meghan Markle advocates for ending the stigma around periods worldwide and providing access to proper sanitation to communities where girls’ periods are preventing them from getting an education. Former First Lady Michelle Obama also called attention to this subject at the World Bank in April 2016. In 2019, an Oscar was awarded to the Los Angeles documentary filmmakers who created a short film centered around menstruation taboo in rural India, called Period. End of Sentence. Countries are paying attention too: Scotland recently became the first country in the world to offer free period products to students at all levels of education in an effort to end period stigma

CEO of Period Purse Jana Girdauskas

CEO of Period Purse Jana Girdauskas

About The Period Purse

The CEO of The Period Purse, Jana Girdauskas, has travelled solo to over 45 countries – she’s a teacher and a JourneyWoman! Jana started this organization in 2017 after witnessing people experiencing homelessness and organizing a fundraising blitz to help everyone maintain their dignity. That blitz grew into a national non-profit that now helps over 100,000 people have healthy periods. 

She says “It is important for all girls, women, and people who menstruate to have access to clean and free period products in all countries, including Canada. Seventy per cent of menstruators have missed work, school or social activities because of their period. It is critical for all people who menstruate to be able to go to school, go to work, take that job interview so they are successful parts of our society.”

Learn more about Period Inequity on our September 24 Community Call

I’m still learning, so I’ve invited Danielle Kaftarian from The Period Purse to join us this Friday, September 24 on our 10 am ET Community Call to discuss Period Equity. You can register for the call here

Did you know that: 

    • 70% of menstruators have missed work, school or social activities because of their period (Plan Canada, 2018)
    • One-third of all Canadian women under the age of 25 experienced “period poverty” meaning they either struggle to afford menstrual products or can’t access them at all (this includes menstruators with full time steady jobs)  (Plan Canada, 2018)
    • During COVID, 1 in 7 young people with periods have struggled to get period products (Always & Plan Canada, 2021).
    • Nearly 1 in 4 young people don’t know why people get periods or how to manage them, and over 1 in 3 young people don’t feel prepared for their first period (Always & Plan Canada, 2021).
“JourneyWoman is an amazing community of strong, smart, brave women who really want to help make this world a better place,” Jana says. “Gender equality and menstrual equity are closely connected, and once you learn about these issues, you really can’t unsee it. I’m thrilled to partner with a community of women who want to help raise awareness and support other women around the world.”

About the Period Purse

The Period Purse is a non-profit registered charity that strives to achieve menstrual equity and reduce the stigma surrounding periods. The organization works with community partners, local volunteers and committed donors to deliver menstrual products to people in need. TPP outreach collects financial & in-kind donations for period products across our Canada chapters. They have donated over 2.5 million period products. TPP education runs virtual presentations to educate the next generation about menstruation and reduce the stigma of periods. TPP continues to advocate for policy changes for long lasting menstrual equity. For more information visit www.theperiodpurse.com or follow them on social media @theperiodpurse.

Period Purse Logo
Walking along Camino de Santiago, Spain

A passionate traveller, Carolyn believes anything is possible when we follow our heart and trust our intuition. Raised in Florida, Carolyn loves all things Latin, margaritas, the ocean and music. She's a board member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), a member of the Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC) and the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA).


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