ESTELA. Tackling menstrual poverty. Promoting and supporting period dignity.

In Venezuela, the deteriorated hygiene conditions, particularly menstrual hygiene, affect women and girls, risking their health and wellbeing. The majority suffer from period poverty: they don’t have enough resources to buy menstrual products; they use ‘old clothes’, ‘egg cartons’, ‘bags’, ‘toilet paper’, ‘plants’; they suffer from infections, stop going to school or work; they shut themselves at home, afraid and ashamed.

Period poverty limits these women and girls, increasing gender inequalities.

“My family is very por, there’s not enough for pads”, “anything we have is for food” “Once I had it go through to my school seat and I didn’t want to get up; now I don’t go to school when I have my period” “I’ve had stains in high school, I feel so afraid and ashamed – those days I don’t go to class”

Menstruation is still a taboo, with strongly negative connotations, that limits women and makes them feel dirty.

“When I’m on my period my dad says I should stay in my room because it is disgusting” “periods are an illness” “during our period we shouldn’t wash our hair, as it could cause a stroke”

Worried about the situation and looking to provide an answer, we started the Estela project, a menstrual health project that works with girls and women to help them live through their periods with dignity. Estela fights for the rights of girls and women, particularly in terms of health and dignity of life, to promote their opportunities in life.

Estela Workshops

In a safe environment, workshops have been delivered across the country, where experiences, ideas and information are shared; menstruation is recognised as a natural process for girls and women; how each of them lives through it is spoken of freely; myths and false beliefs are discussed; key aspects of good menstrual hygiene are highlighted. Reusable menstrual pad kits distributed. Over 5700 women and girls have taken part in workshops delivered in 10 states around the country, receiving a dignity kit.

“I learnt so many things I didn’t know. I thought, for example, that menstruation was something dirty and I stayed in my room because I thought it smelled bad. Now I know it is something normal and healthy.”

Estela pad production units

In Mérida, Anzoátegui and Bolívar production units, formed of community women, have started producing Estela eco menstrual pads.
After several pilots, listening to the women who tried them, a quality eco menstrual pad was produced using national fabrics. Using these pads, we prepare dignity kits that make their producers proud and are changing lives.

“Being part of Estela, I feel that I contribute to dignifying women, I see myself in every girl my age that suffers from period poverty. It motivates me so much. I like what I do” – volunteer at an Estela production unit.

“They are excellent. They are safe from stains. Since I use them I feel safe and sure of myself” “the pads are beautiful and protect well. You feel Good because you are safe from stains” “I’m no longer afraid” ”they are excellent, pretty and safe” “they are easy to wash” “I feel free”

Partnerships to tackle menstrual poverty

Since the start of the project, we’ve had support from so many people, especially sensitive women from all over, who provide funds to support the menstrual health of women and girls. BASTION supported the start of the production units. In 2022 we were able to bring over 4,700 menstrual health kits with reusable pads made by Days for Girls to Venezuela, through a partnership with Days for Girls, an NGO that since 2008 works to provide education and menstrual health products for women and girls around the world, and Ventura, an NGO that aims to channel funds and support development and poverty mitigation projects in Venezuela. Clearly, collaborative work achieves so much more, these partnerships have allowed us to significantly increase our reach in tackling menstrual poverty.