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The Empower Period Podcast - in collaboration with Irise International

Now that our first FOUR episodes are available on Spotify and Buzzsprout, I thought it was time that I talk about The Empower Period Podcast. All the way back in January 2020, I had the pleasure of meeting Emily Wilson, CEO of Irise International. We met at the Periods and Beyond conference, a fantastic event that brought together academics and advocated. It was hosted by Dr. Sara de Benedictis who is a senior lecturer at Brunel and someone who I am collaborating with on an upcoming project (watch this space). I told Emily about my research and we discovered that my aims were very much in line with those of Irise. I had been looking for an opportunity to work with a charitable organisation so that I could use my expertise to have a positive impact on women and people with periods (Why else am I doing this research?). Emily introduced me to advocacy co-ordinator, and now my co-producer and co-host, Acushla Young.

When I met Acushla for the first time we discussed how we could collaborate. We talked about how I could run training workshops for Irise's young advocates as part of their Empower Period initiative. She also put me in touch with other advocates so that I could contribute to a booklet for sixth form students. This booklet is designed to prepare 16-18 year olds to deliver a class to younger pupils. I wrote sections on menstrual stigma, how to talk about periods in a positive way, and gave some tips on how young people can use social media as a tool for menstrual advocacy.

When the pandemic began, Acushla and I wondered what we could do to tackle menstrual stigma and reach a wide audience. So we decided to plunge into the world of podcasting - and the Empower Period Podcast was born! We created the podcast to give a platform to people from a variety of different backgrounds to talk about their lives as menstruators and their opinions about menstrual experience more generally. From the outset, Acushla and I were very keen to ensure that our podcasts represent diverse experiences and give voice to aspects of menstrual experience that are not frequently discussed.

We started the series with a podcast on invisible disability. We enjoyed an engaging conversation with the incredible Pippa Line about how she manages her periods alongside her chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. We discuss topics from menstrual cups to marvel characters.

For our second episode, "Menstruation in the Media" , we invited five fantastic designers. We chatted to four wonderful women from the Red Cloud Project who are creating a book about periods for young people. We also spoke to the award-winning Sophia Luu about her "Everybody Bleeds" video. I, of course, spoke about my research and shared some of my initial findings. Topics include religion, menstrual stigma and advocacy.

Episode 3, "How Private is Your Period?", focuses on menstrual health apps. We spoke to app expert Laura Shipp who is researching the privacy and security of menstrual apps. Joining the conversation, Natasha Burns describes her experiences as a regular menstrual app user. Besides talking about privacy, we also discussed how app adverts can mislead women to believe that they can be used to avoid pregnancy.

Our latest episode, "Leading the Change: Menstrual Advocacy in Zimbabwe", features the brilliant Mandi Tembo and Tine Matambanadzo. Mandi and Tine are menstrual advocates who raise awareness about endometriosis. This show pays testament to the fantastic advocacy work in Zimbabwe and challenges the idea that menstrual advocacy originated in the West. We show that the West can learn from menstrual advocacy in African countries such as Zimbabwe and Uganda. We also compare women's experiences of pain, and societal attitudes towards women's pain, in Zimbabwe and the UK.

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