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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 13 Hansard (Wednesday, 1 December 2021) . . Page.. 4009 ..

Before I move on to the second part of my speech, I think it is also important that I mention all the hard work Helping ACT did throughout the lockdown. Mohammed Ali from team Helping ACT is a big inspiration to me and the wider community. While the ACT was in lockdown, Mohammed and the rest of Helping ACT were out ensuring that Canberrans did not go without food. Thank you for all the work that they have done this year, particularly ensuring that families have had food during the lockdown.

Now it is time for me to mention the other thing that I wanted to talk about. I want to speak about an issue that is slowly but surely receiving attention outside this place due to the serious nature and challenges it presents. The ACT is a wealthy community in which most people can comfortably meet their basic needs. Unfortunately, 15 per cent of people who have periods are experiencing period poverty here in the ACT. Simply put, period poverty is a lack of access to any one of the following: sanitary products, toilets, hand-washing facilities, waste management or educational resources about periods.

It is possible to overcome physical barriers to period poverty, but not without a complete understanding of the most significant barrier to menstrual equity: stigma. Historically, all cultures have engaged and do engage in behaviour which results in shaming menstruation and those who experience it. This includes, but is not limited to, more pervasive narratives of disgust compared to other normal bodily fluids such as sweat, blood or breast milk; cultural beliefs that a woman is so unclean during her menstrual period that she cannot worship with her community; advertising menstrual products in a way that implies any menstrual blood-leaks somehow expose an absence of femininity; the restriction of freedom of behaviour due to menstruation that a person may have enjoyed in the past; and the association of menstruation with mood disorders.

Having a period should not be a disadvantage. But while periods remain wrapped up in shame and stigma, many women and people who menstruate still whisper to each other when we need a tampon, feel uncomfortable asking our male boss for time off because of period pain, or are shamed if we do not have periods. This shame absolutely has a material impact on the daily lives of women and people who menstruate. For instance, Share the Dignity’s Period Pride Report, the largest report of its kind undertaken in Australia, reveals that, in addition to 59 per cent of people surveyed having felt too embarrassed to talk about periods, cost pressures meant that two in five respondents were using less suitable period products and one in five respondents were improvising, such as using toilet paper.

People are putting their health at risk, with almost one in two respondents wearing a pad or a tampon for over four hours because they did not have any more to use. Participation in school and work is also affected, with nearly half of respondents saying they had skipped a whole day of school and two in five respondents saying they had called in sick to work because of their period.

There is an indisputably strong case for efforts to remove the stigma associated with periods so that responding to the other barriers that stop women participating in

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