We Need to Talk Association (Konuşmamız Gerek Derneği) is working to increase the accessibility, quality and sustainability of period products in Turkey, and to raise awareness about period poverty and menstruation stigma. The association is receiving a grant and capacity development support from the 2022 period of our Gender Equality Fund to improve its operational capacity by employing part-time staff who will be responsible for communication activities and volunteer coordination.
Read below our interview:
We Need to Talk Association is receiving a grant from our foundation for the first time in the 2022 period of the Gender Equality Fund. Can you tell us about the purpose and activities of your association?
We have been fighting against period poverty and the menstruation stigma in Turkey since 2016. When we first started this journey, our focus was to increase access to period products for three main groups living in disadvantaged areas (seasonal agricultural workers, refugees and children in rural schools). For this purpose, we first started with fieldwork. We distributed period products donated to our association by local partners (chambers of agriculture, mukhtar offices, rural schools), firms and our supporters. To raise awareness, we organise workshops on menstrual care and gender equality. To date, we have reached over 50,000 beneficiaries in 15 cities.
Recognising the lack of scientific content in Turkish on menstruation, we also create informative resources such as the Menstruation Guide for Non-Menstruators, Menstruation Education Guide, educational videos, and our recently published children’s book Let’s Talk. We write articles and reports and bring together academics, menstrual justice activists, and policymakers from different countries to develop policies and advocate for issues such as the unjust taxation and ecological sustainability of period products, and the inclusion of menstruation education in the school curriculum.
Period poverty is the problem of access to period products such as sanitary pads, tampons, and basic needs like clean water, garbage bins, and a safe toilet (or room) due to a lack of purchasing power and traditional gender roles.
What is period poverty and menstruation stigma that we have started to hear more frequently in recent years? Can you tell us about the relationship between period poverty and women’s poverty?
Period poverty is the problem of access to period products such as sanitary pads, tampons, and basic needs like clean water, garbage bins, and a safe toilet (or room) due to a lack of purchasing power and traditional gender roles. We also consider the lack of access to comprehensive, accurate information and education about menstruation as part of period poverty.
Menstruation stigma describes the social norm where menstruation and period poverty is seen as a subject that should be hidden and not talked about. Period poverty, experienced in unique ways by all individuals who menstruate, disproportionately affects women and girls who are socio-economically disadvantaged, have no or limited income and work in precarious jobs.
In June, you published Turkey’s first research report on period poverty. Can you tell us about the scope of the report, its prominent findings, and the solutions you propose?
We have published the data, detailed analyses and our recommendations with the Period Poverty in Turkey Research, which we see as an important first step to filling a large literature gap. By repeating this research regularly, we aim to scientifically determine the period poverty and menstruation stigma experiences of menstruating individuals in Turkey, their needs, and the necessary policies and solutions. We want this research to benefit academics, activists, national and local governments and the media, and to form a basis for sustainable solutions, action plans and public opinion in this field.
The survey, in which 4108 people over the age of 18 from 81 provinces of Turkey participated, yielded very striking findings. For example, 21.1% of the participants stated that they do not always have access to soap, 16.3% to clean water and 31.8% to a waste bin. This means that approximately 1 in 5 respondents do not always have access to soap and clean water, two products that are critical for menstrual care.
Period poverty disproportionately affects women and girls who are socio-economically disadvantaged, have no or limited income and work in precarious jobs.
Furthermore, only 26.4% of respondents reported never having difficulties in purchasing menstrual products, while 42.5% reported rarely having difficulties, 22.6% reported often having difficulties, and 8.5% reported always having difficulties. The fact that almost all respondents had difficulty accessing menstrual products, albeit with varying intensity, highlights the precariousness of access to these products.
Based on these findings, we have also made comprehensive policy recommendations, which we have categorised under three headings: “informative contents”, “menstrual care products”, and “taxation and policy documents”, such as the inclusion of comprehensive sexuality education, including menstruation, menstrual care, period poverty and menstruation stigma in the national education curriculum, and the free availability of period products in the toilets of public places, especially public schools, dormitories and universities.
You recently published the book Let’s Talk, which you prepared for children, young people and caregivers who have questions about menstruation. Can you tell us about the purpose and the content of the book?
Our book “Let’s Talk”, published by Dinozor Genç, tells the reality of menstruation through the story of Elif, a girl who has her period for the first time. The book tells about myths and facts, her fears and worries, and how her views on the subject change with the information she gains and with her family’s support. With this book, we offer a guide for both families and their children, as well as a story that will make the children feel that they are not alone in their menstrual experiences. While following a week of Elif’s life with pages from her diary, readers can also access scientific information about menstruation and a guiding menstrual dictionary. During our fieldwork, we received so many questions from children about menstruation that it was our biggest dream to answer these questions in a book, and this dream has recently come true.
The survey, in which 4108 people over the age of 18 from 81 provinces of Turkey participated, yielded very striking findings. 21.1% of the participants stated that they do not always have access to soap, 16.3% to clean water and 31.8% to a waste bin.
In which capacity development area will you use the institutional grant support provided by our Gender Equality Fund? How do you expect this support to contribute to your organisation?
We are really happy and proud to be eligible to benefit from the Gender Equality Fund, launched in cooperation with Turkey Mozaik Foundation and the Support Foundation for Civil Society. We started out as two young women PhD students and of course, we have achieved great things with the contributions of our small team and volunteers. However, the point we have reached is far beyond our capacity and we had to make great sacrifices in our lives.
We want to work with a teammate who can be our companion and take on our workload while looking for ways to make our impact sustainable, which will be possible thanks to this support. We will also develop our communication strategy so that our informational resources can effectively reach our target audiences and civil society stakeholders.
About We Need to Talk Association
We Need to Talk Association aims to increase the accessibility, quality and sustainability of period products in Turkey, to contribute to the dissemination of data collection and content creation on period poverty and experiences, and to ensure the inclusion of comprehensive sexuality and menstruation education in the National Education Curriculum.