Shelly-Ann Weeks was first exposed to acts of kindness through her great-grandmother, who opened up her home to anyone who was in need. They say children live what they learn, perhaps that was when Weeks’ love for people was born.
What we now know as the End Period Poverty campaign was born in 2016 after Weeks was diagnosed with uterine fibroids. Facing a hysterectomy, she made big changes to her diet, shrinking her fibroids and eliminating the need for surgery. Inspired by her personal journey, she wrote I Changed my Diet and Changed my Life to chronicle her health and lifestyle journey.
She also explored, at length, menstruation and the pain women face, noting the discomfort women feel during their period cycle is often caused by their dietary practices. The author and now fervent activist suggested women drink more water, eat more iron-rich foods and reduce the number of processed foods they eat. Basically avoiding everything you crave!
During her campaigning, she realised young girls were not only oblivious about their monthly cycle but about female reproductive health in its entirety.
“I saw that there was a [shortfall] in the way girls are taught about their bodies and that affects how they deal with menstruation and puberty,” said Weeks.
Shocked, she immediately started conversations with school guidance counsellors and nurses to understand the depth of issue at hand. From those conversations, she realised that if some students are unable to afford lunch, then they must also find it difficult to purchase sanitary products. This results in young girls using items such as socks, blocks of tissue, and even pieces of old cloth to do the work of traditional sanitary pads.
END PERIOD POVERTY CAMPAIGN
Weeks started with three schools in 2016, pushing an islandwide End Period Poverty campaign through her Her Flow Foundation. She receives donations from persons abroad, as well as sanitary product brands, including Always, Stayfree and Lasco Curves.
To date, she has donated over 100,000 sanitary packages to girls in need islandwide.
What’s next for the period lady?
The start of her new project, Celebrate Her. This takes the form of a brunch honouring guidance counsellors and school nurses who have gone above and beyond for their students. Later in the year, she will launch her Invest in Girls project, which is a partnership with the author of Black Girl books and will see the donation of 500 books to as many girls.
Weeks is intent on expanding, but never loses sight of her main goal – making sanitary products free and available in public bathrooms islandwide.
Story by Shemarr Henry