By: Laura Papp
As I sit here composing this blog post, I can’t help but smile at the twist of irony, or perhaps fate, that today is International Women’s Day. I smile because, just like what today’s holiday represents, the following reflection is all about female empowerment, and, more specifically, the rippling effect that a small but beautiful organisation is having on local women.
Before coming to work as an intern on the Menopause Project here at Hands Inc., I knew relatively little about menopause. I had watched my own mother her friends go through the change in the years leading up to my study abroad experience in London, so I suppose you could say I had a fairly well-rounded understanding of the symptoms that come along with menopause; but perhaps more than anything, I came to London with an understanding of the sheer frustration that menopause could ignite in the women it affected. Until recently, it seemed to me like going through menopause was the worst thing in the world.
As I mentioned, outside of personal interaction with my menopausal mother, my understanding of the menopause was quite limited, as I suppose many other twenty-something women may feel, and I generally came to Hands Inc. with negative perceptions about the menopause process. Since beginning work on the Menopause Project nearly two months ago now, I can honestly say that my perspective on menopause has entirely changed. In doing audio transcriptions of the Menopause Project’s weekly meeting with local women, several things became immediately clear to me. First, it seems that menopause is largely stigmatised. For this reason, until coming to the group most women had not had an outlet where they felt comfortable discussing their experiences with menopause. Yet despite the frustration that many women brought to the table, it was truly amazing to hear how women were able to open up and share their experiences with their fellow women in a way that helped the entire group grow and learn. I remember transcribing the final focus group for last year’s Menopause Project group and being inspired by the feedback. Nearly all of the women had something positive to say about the group and consistently mentioned that having a social support network and structured place where discussing menopause was not only tolerated but encouraged, truly helped them improve their confidence and become more comfortable with and knowledgeable about their own bodies.
As a young woman of a
whopping 20 years old, I am far from menopausal; but body confidence and positivity is a message women of all ages can benefit from. There is something so empowering about knowing how your body works, how to take care of it and how to celebrate it for all of its natural beauty. (And let it be known, menopause is a beautiful thing!) It may not be glamorous, but menopause is natural, and a quite notable milestone in the life of a woman- and that is something that should be celebrated, not discouraged or stigmatised.
Though far off, my experience with menopause is inevitable. Working with this project has genuinely helped me gather a greater understanding of menopause that will not only help me later in life as I too experience this natural transition, but I have also gathered great respect and appreciation for all the women who have, and will, endure this process before I do. I truly hope the Menopause Project will continue to grow in the future and carry on helping local women take charge of their health, their bodies, and, of course, their menopause without shame.
On that note, and with the strong women of London and the world at the forefront of my mind, I am going to go enjoy International Women’s Day and bask in the gloriousness that is womanhood.