This week the above short film features Suzy & Giselle in conversation, discussing the recent Hands Inc Menopause Workshops that were run in Hackney and funded by the local authority. Suzy reflects on the positive impact that the project had on her and the importance of sharing with other women.
We worked in partnership with On the Record to support the women produce films and audio stories to share their experiences. Rosa who facilitated the digital story sessions, shares below how the sessions impacted on her thoughts about the menopause.
In March I had the pleasure of working with Hands Inc to facilitate the recording and editing of digital stories for the Reclaim the Menopause Project. Getting to meet and listen to the group of women and their diverse experiences was really special and I could see how valuable the group was as a place where the menopause could be discussed freely amongst peers. Seeing this made me hope that when I am approaching the menopause myself I will be able to find a supportive group to share experiences with and learn from.
I helped three members of the group audio record their stories about the menopause, and three others to share their experiences through interviews. These have since become short videos that can be viewed on the Women’s Stories page of this website – In these, Fifi makes an impassioned case for change in the way GPs approach treatment of menopausal women, “Bubbles” explains her own experience of menopause in a touching way, Karen Thorne depicts a hilarious incident with a journalist who gives her an unexpected gift and Roe Joe tells a gripping story through the eyes of a daughter that models how to tell your child about the menopause.
Following the workshops I worked on a five minute audio piece collated from dozens of recordings collected by Eileen Bellot. Women were asked to say what came into their head when they heard the word menopause. Answers ranged from the negative: “getting old”, “over the hill”, to positive: “becoming a wise woman”, “becoming an elder”, to the silly: “men’s claws”. Women discussed why the menopause was taboo, medical treatment of the menopause and shared alternative treatments learnt from family members.
Women shared their advice for other women: the most common being to talk about it and not to “suffer in silence”. I was especially struck by one young woman who said it was like you got your “menopause t-shirt” as a badge of honour: “we came, we bore children and now we are having a rest!” As I was newly pregnant with my first child at the time, and experiencing the hormonal changes that go along with early pregnancy, it got me thinking about what the menopause might be like. Hearing the women speak made me think about menopause as part of the reproductive cycle and for the first time it struck me that it could be a positive change, a time of increased wisdom during which you might be able to put yourself first a little more.
I am a co-director of On the Record Community Interest Company; we record and creatively share lesser known histories and voices and train people in digital media skills so they can do so for themselves. We regularly run digital storytelling courses in Hackney where people produce their own pieces of digital media about local or family history, or simply an engaging story about themselves. Find out more here: on-the-record.org.uk