Behind the Scenes of Breaking the Cycle

Guest post by Susan Anderson Mosseri-Marlio, the Executive Producer of Breaking the Cycle

It started with a phone call from an old friend, Deb Bayer Marlow. While working in Kenya, she noticed that there were a lot of girls and women missing from school and work. After a bit of digging, she discovered that they were menstruating and were either banished or without the necessary sanitary products, so they stayed at home.

She asked me, “What can we do to help young girls and women maintain their dignity and have access to the sanitary products they need’? She answered her own question - Tell their stories…

That was almost three years ago and since then, under the direction of Nancy Durrell McKenna, Safe Hands for Mothers and Marlow Productions, we have begun to tell their stories. 

The first story from our series “Breaking the Cycle” was from Kenya and Denmark. It profiles girls and women of all ages and their experiences academically and socially. The geographic location and socioeconomics were starkly different but the stories were the same. Some of the girls and women talked about embarrassment and shame, while others revealed a lack of understanding of the basic biological function and the reasons why women menstruate.

Young woman is prepared for the Dipo Ceremony by women in her community. 

Young woman is prepared for the Dipo Ceremony by women in her community. 

Breaking the Cycle documented the Dipo Ceremony and the rituals performed for Krobo girls in Eastern Ghana that emphasise the importance of purity and virginity for girls at the age of menstruation and even earlier - sometimes as early as two and four years of age. The intention is to prevent teenage pregnancy and sexual promiscuity but the modification of these practices even with advancing education and access to birth control illustrates an increased control over girls and young women’s independence and free will.

There has been a lot of coverage of the practice of Chaupadi in Nepal and the taboos around menstruation - superstition and impurity - that have led to multiple deaths when these girls and women are banished to huts and practicing basic hygiene such as bathing while on their periods. Breaking the Cycle’s Banished for Bleeding illustrates how communities, educators, and lawmakers can come together to change a practice based on superstition.

Our current film - Restoring Dignity: One period at a Time - focuses on period poverty and menstrual equality and equity. Nancy, Deb and I believe that profiling this issue around the globe and especially in Western countries such as the United States can help change the way sanitary products are taxed and distributed to those women and girls who need them. Follow Shontel as she shares her experiences as menstruating teenager in Spartanburg, South Carolina who can’t afford the products she needs. With the help of a local charitable group she and others in her public school system can feel confident and supported every month. 

It is a great pleasure to be a part of this series and SafeHands as they celebrate their 15th anniversary. I am looking forward to the new stories that will be produced in the coming months. Stay tuned and help us make a difference in the lives of young girls and women around the globe.

Nancy Durell Mckenna