Listen to #Hashtag Hong Kong every Sunday morning at 8.15
Focussing on issues affecting civil society, we'll hear from representatives of NGOs, associations, statutory bodies, and non-profit groups.
(Sundays 8.15am - 8.25am)
Period poverty is a social issue that is gaining increasing attention worldwide, but not something new. Generally, “period poverty” refers to the phenomenon where someone is lacking access to menstrual products, safe and hygienic spaces to handle periods, and the fundamental right to manage their menstruation with dignity without unnecessary shame and taboo.
One might doubt whether period poverty actually exists in a highly modernised city like Hong Kong, and indeed it is a question we are always asked. Surely, period poverty here may not be as extreme as some other places, but there are plenty of aspects we are lagging behind. At Free Periods Hong Kong, we define period poverty as a threefold issue: a lack of sufficient and quality products and a lack of knowledge or misconceptions about menstruation caused by the shaming of period and a society that is not period-friendly.
According to our estimation, the basic cost of one cycle’s worth of period product is equivalent to one pack of 5kg rice, which is around $60-70. Imagine a grassroots family with more than one person who menstruates, or with the need to use more expensive products due to various reasons, for example a heavier flow or skin allergy? A survey we have conducted shows that a striking 42% of respondents have tried saving money by not changing menstrual pads even when it is fully soaked or have been used for more than 4 hours. 27% of respondents would cut expenses on menstrual products for other expenses, mostly for food and childcare. We have heard the story of a secondary school girl in Hong Kong who said she would use each pad for at least 8 hours, and would cover the pads with toilet paper so that she doesn’t have to spend so much on pads. Stories like this are happening every day. Low-income women in Hong Kong are pressured financially to restrict their use or choice of menstrual products, or even skipping school because there’s insufficient products to prevent leakage in public. These all lead to mental stress and health threats, and hindrance to long-term personal development.
Aside from financial poverty, many in Hong Kong are affected by menstrual stigma, sometimes unknowingly. Many small things in daily life such as incomplete menstrual education, mainstream view of period blood as dirty and unlucky, and the association of menstruation with temper tantrum all contribute in making menstruation an unpleasant part of life. With the conventional belief of menstruation being unpleasant and not to be spoken of, it is essentially creating an environment where menstrual needs are dismissed rather than assisted. Worse, these often cause people to neglect the bodily signs of extreme pain or severe mood swings because they are dismissed as PMS, while there could be underlying health issues. This unspoken culture of menstruation is precisely why it is difficult for people to seek help on period-related issues in the workplace, schools, and medical settings. Menstrual leave is almost unheard of, very few employers offer access to menstrual products in the workplace. There are doctors who tell patients that their pain is “normal”, that it is just dysmenorrhea, that “pain is subjective”. Too often, we are told that menstruation is “your own problem”, not society’s problem, but people never choose to menstruate. It is an issue of basic human rights and dignity.
One of the more sustainable solutions is to create a comprehensive menstrual education kit that addresses menstruation positively and informatively. Currently, many of these are done as disguised product promotions, and often only provided for girls. However, menstrual education should be provided to everyone regardless of gender if we want to curate a world that is equipped with knowledge and understanding, both the foundation that can help dispel the lurking shaming and stigma of menstruation. In such, society can hopefully address the issue as they are and treat period poverty seriously, where the mental and physical aspect can be alleviated and the financial hardship can be acknowledged.
Every 28 May, the Menstrual Hygiene Day is celebrated worldwide to raise awareness of menstrual hygiene and period poverty. This May, we are delighted to have joint hands with our lead sponsor Hactl and co-organiser Onebite to organise the Be My Buddy Buddy Exhibition. The 4-day event will kickstart on 25 May. We will provide lively and interesting menstrual knowledge and multiple perspectives for you to understand menstruation, so you will no longer feel embarrassed discussing the issue. In addition to the exhibition, we have organised multiple talks and activities related to menstruation, allowing everyone, regardless or sex and gender, to gain a deeper understanding of the issue. Come and join us as a period pal and work together for menstrual equity!
World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) , 21 March, is a global awareness day which has been officially observed by the United Nations since 2012. The date for WDSD being the 21st day of the 3rd month, was selected to signify the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome which causes Down syndrome. This extra genetic material causes the developmental changes and physical features of Down syndrome.
Down syndrome varies in severity among individuals, causing lifelong intellectual disability and developmental delays. It's the most common genetic chromosomal disorder and cause of learning disabilities in children. It also commonly causes other medical abnormalities, including heart and gastrointestinal disorders. Better understanding of Down syndrome and early interventions can greatly increase the quality of life for children and adults with this disorder and help them live fulfilling lives.
The Hong Kong Down Syndrome Association is committed to serving individuals with Down Syndrome, intellectual disabilities or other disabilities and their family members with integrated family support and vocational rehabilitation services. As an organization dedicated to serving people with Down syndrome and their families, we deeply understand that for expectant parents who are suspected of having a fetus with Down syndrome or parents who have just given birth to a newborn baby with Down syndrome, they will encounter a critical period full of hesitation, confusion and doubts. Through our Pre-natal & New Born Counselling & Support Service for Parents of Babies with Down Syndrome, we actively provide these parents with comprehensive information and appropriate emotional support.
Let me share a life story with you.
The parents contacted us after the birth of their daughter Esther in 2016. During the various pregnancy check-ups, they were told repeatedly that there were high risks of carrying a fetus with Down Syndrome. At first, the parents were shocked by the persistence from the medical professionals despite having communicated their decision to continue with the pregnancy. Esther’s parents were very positive and accepted the fact she would be born with special needs. They said, “She is a gift from God. Down Syndrome does not define who she is, she is a precious child first!”
As the parents were not familiar to the rehabilitation services in Hong Kong, our social worker shared lots of useful information with them. For example, the importance of Child assessment, the application procedures for social welfare and the importance of early intervention to newborn babies with Down Syndrome, etc. Esther was born premature and also confirmed having congenital heart defect soon after birth. She was admitted to PICU for some time in infancy. Our social worker had also provided counselling and psychological support services to them. Early intervention training was provided to enhance her development in muscle, cognition, language and social skills. They were deeply touched by the support and care from the association to the family still now.
Esther is nearly 7 years old now and is studying in a primary school since last September. She is sociable at school and is coping well with her primary school life. The parents shared that Down Syndrome does not define who the person is. Some people may find it difficult, but don’t forget that there is a community with a big heart that is willing to help, care and accept.
It’s deeply true that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, and people with Down Syndrome need more acceptance. Individuals with Down Syndrome have the right to social resources, and also the responsibility to contribute to society. They are capable of working as long as employers give them the opportunity. If you are willing to accept and embrace people with Down Syndrome, they can also have a happy and meaningful life just like you and me!
Do you want to get involve to raise the awareness on Down Syndrome? It couldn’t be easier! As I mention in the beginning, most people with Down Syndrome carry an extra one at their 21st pair of chromosomes. The shape of socks is like a chromosome. This condition, then is just like a pair of colorful mismatched socks. The odd pair of socks may be a different pattern or color but can still be worn together and form a colorful picture! On the coming 21 March, the World Down Syndrome Day, all you need to do is to wear mismatched socks or most colourful socks that are going to get noticed. To represent the beauty of diversity, possibility, inclusion and a new perspective of seeing things on this special day, and also to raise the public concern to people with Down Syndrome together!
May we live in a society without prejudice, where everyone can enjoy equality, love
I’d like to dedicate this song to the listener and all our members...“This is Me…”