Menstruation minister on mission to unearth truth

Chirwa’s aim is to normalise the process 

Candice Chirwa is a self-proclaimed minister of menstruation.

The 24-year-old has a master’s degree with an emphasis on menstrual health education and management.

Chirwa, who is the founder of non-prot organisation Qrate, was announced as the Lil-Lets South Africa’s latest brand ambassador for her contribution to menstrual health and education.

Having recently completed her master’s research on menstrual health management – Looking at the state’s obligations to prioritising menstruation – she is part of a few South Africans trying to make a di­erence.

On May 28, the country celebrated Menstrual Hygiene Day, where the government reminded South Africans that in the 2019/2020 budget, the National Treasury had made available R157-million to provide free sanitary pads to quintile 1-3 schools across the country.

Chirwa’s contribution includes workshops, TED x Talks as a menstrual activist, and weekly social media threads on menstruation.

She says there is a gap between what the population understands about the menstrual process and what is true.

A natural occurrence has turned into a nightmare for millions of women and girls through persistent taboos and stigma, lack of access to menstrual products and proper sanitation, as well as lack of education on managing their menstrual cycle, Chirwa says.

She says: “A lot of people, specifically men, are uninformed about what it even means to menstruate. Notions such as ‘menstruating women excrete toxic substances from their vagina that cause owers to die quicker’, and that menstruators ‘cannot touch food because the blood will contaminate the food’, leads to misconceptions about the purpose of menstruation.

“We have an extreme lack of education regarding menstrual cycles, and therefore existing taboos cannot be challenged until there is sufficient knowledge to combat these misconceptions.”

She explains that a close friend called her the minister of menstruation a§er seeing the work she did with Qrate’s menstruation workshops, thus the self- proclamation.

“So, I decided to give myself that title to also create a safe space where people could ask any questions they feel too embarrassed/overwhelmed to ask. Furthermore, having the title of minister of menstruation allows for people to reflect on what society would be like if we … normalised menstruation and had progressive policies around menstruation in place.”

Chirwa says she applauds numerous pad drives because they allows for many girls to have access to these products.

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