Power Movies 4
Marsha Clark 0:00
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Wendi McGowan-Ellis 0:37
Welcome to "Your Authentic Path to Powerful Leadership" with Marsha Clark. Join us on this journey where we're uncovering what it takes to be a powerful woman leader. Well, Marsha, this is it, our last episode in the series on the Fight for Freedom that we kicked off almost a month ago now. And I've learned so much and had such a blast getting to hear from our panelists for each of the films we've watched so far.
Marsha Clark 1:04
And I'm right there with you, Wendi. I've also learned a lot about issues that are important to women around the world. And today we're going to cap off our conversations and we're focusing on an award winning short documentary titled "Period. End of Sentence". You know, we say that in quotes all the time. That is the name of this episode. And as we've done with our previous three video discussions, we have some special guests with us today to help us explore these important contemporary topics of period poverty. Yeah, new term.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 1:04
Yeah, yeah, the studio has been a revolving door of VIP's, you know, here lately, and today is no exception. So today we are excited to have in the studio Saba Ilyas and Elizabeth Adsit. So, welcome, ladies, and thank you both for being here.
Saba Ilyas 1:55
Thank you so much. This is a true honor to be able to speak today with you guys on such an amazing topic.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 2:01
Thank you, Saba. Alright, Elizabeth?
Elizabeth Adsit 2:03
Thank you so much for having me on the podcast.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 2:06
I had to say their name so that people start to get their voice and name.
Marsha Clark 2:11
So let me also add my welcome to Saba and Elizabeth. And Saba, you have a unique connection to us at the podcast because you helped us to recruit one of our favorite guests from earlier this year, Rabbi Heidi as she's known, Rabbi Heidi Cortez.
Saba Ilyas 2:26
Right, and Rabbi Heidi is just amazing. I have had this amazing time being in Frisco and getting to know so many women that are powerful and just beautiful creatures and nurturers and so Rabbi Heidi is no different. Rabbi, I didn't realize that there were women rabbis until I met Rabbi Heidi and then I met Rabbi Heidi. And then I met Rabbi Zaloni. And I said 'Wow. What a revolution'. And growing up in a small town suburb of Chicago, which was Orthodox Jewish, I never saw one. So when I saw, I'm like, wait, what? Well how did this happen? So anyway, long story short, Rabbi Heidi and I met years ago, and we started a group together called Daughters of Faith here in Frisco with her and Denise Baston from Preston Trail just to be able to do the amazing things and share and build bridges.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 3:21
Wonderful. That's great. Okay, Saba and Elizabeth, you're both connected to our content creator Tracie Shipman. And she's who recruited you both for the show today, right? (Yes.) All right, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Adsit 3:34
Tracie and I met singing at church together and became fast friends. St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Frisco. Her and Keith have kind of adopted me into their family.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 3:45
That's great. Yeah, that's wonderful.
Marsha Clark 3:46
I love that and you never know how you're going to connect with another person. So I love that. I love that. You know, Tracie, seriously, knows the coolest people. And I'd love for each of you to just share a quick introduction of yourself so our listeners get a sense of who you are, your backgrounds and get to know you a little bit. So something about you personally, and something professionally. So, Elizabeth, let's start with you.
Elizabeth Adsit 4:10
So I am a high school choir director in Richardson. I've done this job at the same school for the last 18 years and I just absolutely love it. I was born to do it. I've always wanted to be a teacher. It's just been an absolute joy to teach everyday. I love it. And something kind of fun about me, I have, as a dog person, I have zero dogs, three cats and eight chicken.
Marsha Clark 4:35
I love it! You're, but you still declare yourself a dog person. (I do.) So we get to identify how we choose to identify.
Elizabeth Adsit 4:44
I married into the cat. So.
Marsha Clark 4:47
Alright. I love that. Saba, how about you?
Saba Ilyas 4:50
So I do a couple of different things. I'm Pakistani Muslim, grew up in Chicago, moved out to Texas in 2006. We've been small business owners here and currently, I'm doing two things that I'm, well, many things that I'm passionate about. But the two things that I'll share with you guys, I am the chair for Mayor Cheney's Frisco Inclusion Committee, which is a diversity and inclusion committee that Mayor Cheney started in 2019. And also, I get to do fun things with hearts and parts as part of my nine to five job at Baylor downtown. I get to handle human hearts, transplants and if you haven't seen the flood of pictures all over social media of people holding their hearts recently, we'll have to get you to hold one.
Marsha Clark 4:50
Wow. That's amazing. Yeah. I don't even know how to respond to that. But to think about I, you know, I tell people you touch my heart, you hold my heart. I mean, and yet literally.
Saba Ilyas 5:50
Literally, yes. Many people's hearts.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 5:50
Okay, so I want to set the stage for this documentary that we all watched with a little background information from their website. So their website is the padproject.org and background is that in a rural village outside Delhi, India, women are leading a quiet revolution. They fight against the deeply rooted stigma of menstruation. "Period. End of Sentence", a documentary, a short documentary, it's very short, directed by Rayka Zebtabchi, tells their story. For generations, these women didn't have access to pads, which led to health problems and girls missing school or dropping out entirely. But when a sanitary pad machine is installed in the village, the women learn how to manufacture and market their own pads, empowering the women of the community. And they named their brand Fly because they want women to soar. I absolutely love that. So the whole thing started as a part of a school project. So my first question for all three of you is had you heard of this film before this podcast or had you heard about the pad project? And if you had, what did you know about it already? So Elizabeth, let's start with you.
Elizabeth Adsit 5:56
I had not heard anything about the pad project before watching it on Netflix. And now I'm fascinated and want to learn everything I can about it.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 7:22
Saba Ilyas 7:24
Same. Had not heard about this particular film. Had known about a pad project in the past. But yeah, I've been searching and wanting to get to know more.
Marsha Clark 7:34
Yeah, I fall into the same bucket here. I had not heard of it. And, and I've spent quite a bit of time in India and had not heard of it. And I you know, my goal now, I will support it. I will support it financially, because that's what I can do from where I sit. And so that's my plan.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 7:51
Absolutely. Well, I'm the odd one out. I had actually watched this before, but it had been years ago during COVID. And I think that how I stumbled upon the film was I believe it was mentioned in Caroline Criado Perez' book, "Invisible Women", the data science book about women. I think she references it, so I jumped from that book to this. Which by the way, shameless, non paid plug for that book.
Marsha Clark 8:11
It is an amazing book. But yeah, and I listened to it on audio, and I apparently did not make that same connection. So well. And I find the whole class project part of this story fascinating. So, Elizabeth, you talking about teaching in high school, right? It was a group of, it was a class in California that found out about this and funded it and did a GoFundMe and all that kind of thing. So that part of the story is fascinating. And this information comes from their padproject.org website. So they explained that back in 2013, Melissa Berton took a group of her students to the annual Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations. And there they learned about the problem of period poverty. And this isn't time period. This is menstrual period poverty and about the invention of a machine that manufactures sanitary pads out of natural, locally sourced materials at a low cost, just five cents per unit. And the students went on to raise over $55,000 through fundraisers, and I love this, bake sales and to Kickstarter, I said GoFundMe. It's Kickstarter campaign to purchase a sanitary pad machine for the village of Kathikhera outside of New Delhi, India. And they then partnered with Director, Rayka Zebtabchi, and Action India, which is a grassroots women's empowerment organization working in Kathikhera to document the process in what would eventually then become the documentary "Period. End of Sentence". And it's, and I just find it so inspiring to hear about students that are so committed to supporting girls halfway around the world, people that they'll never meet or know and yet still being that committed.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 8:37
Yeah. And so for those of you who have not watched the video, and please go and do after you finish listening to this podcast, what I think we as Americans just do not understand is why this is an issue. And this is an issue because in India, there is a lot of poverty. And they don't have access to I mean, they barely have more than three pieces of clothing to wear. And so think about not having access to, think about that, and you yourself not being able to go to the grocery store and pick up one of 100 different menstrual products. There's literally nothing and so these girls are wrapping themselves with dirty clothing that have been tossed into landfills. They're they're trying to find any piece of absorbent rag material and then putting that on the most intimate part of their body where they can then get in all kinds of infections and disease. And so that's kind of the mindset that I wanted everybody to get themselves into, why there is such a need.
Marsha Clark 11:19
Yeah. So, Saba, I mean, what was that initial reaction? What was that for you?
Saba Ilyas 11:27
We're from Pakistan. And so we've gone back every summer ever since I could remember. And then for about three years of my life, I went back after high school to spend some time there. And, and so I didn't realize how important it was to have pads until one summer when we got there and I didn't have one. And it was so difficult and had to go through, you know, trying to find, and we're from an affluent area and so it's not a big deal. But you know, it was the middle of the night didn't have one in the house. And that's when I got a crash course on what my mom and her sisters would do when there wasn't a pad, different types of things that they have gone through to get to where we are now. And so that was a very quick learning lesson as to make sure you take boxes and boxes of pads with you whenever you're going. So and then when I went back, this was and this was local, similar to what they were making. It was, you know, their version versus the versions that we're used to here that are so seemingly in comparison to both of those things, they're just so extravagant and amazing. And these were like thick diapers and it was uncomfortable. And you made sure that you took pads after that. And then the invention of wings was oh my god soaring and flying. But you know, just the fact that something as simple, I never thought it would be an issue even where we were.
Marsha Clark 12:53
Yeah, yeah. Elizabeth, how about you?
Elizabeth Adsit 12:55
Yeah, I found this project to be absolutely amazing. Like, it was eye opening to me that only 10% of that community used a pad. I mean, that is something that we just take for granted. And we don't think about it.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 13:13
And there are reasons also, number one expense and number two, but probably really, mentally, number one, the shame. Like they had to go into stores that were run by men, there's men behind the counter, and they were ashamed and afraid to take something off the shelf and then purchase it like that embarrassment outweighed. Like that to them was a higher threshold than finding a dirty rag in the street.
Saba Ilyas 13:40
So I have, I can first time we have to go, you know, to buy something at the store. It's they're not, don't imagine yourself walking into a Walmart or a Target but a small local store at the corner, you know, at the corner bakery that carries everything right? So you're walking in, so I might be with my aunt and she walks into the corner of the counter, points, the man takes the box of pads out, he puts it in three different bags so it's completely covered, hands it to her like it was like, you know, bomb or something like a super secret mission and I'm just like, what's going on? Are we not gonna buy cream or eggs? She'd go, we'll come back for that.
Marsha Clark 14:19
Saba Ilyas 14:19
So it was just the shame around not talking about something. It's just taboo. We don't do it.
Marsha Clark 14:26
But, you know, I have to tell you. I remember being 12 and 13 years old when it was starting to happen. And I was like that. I didn't want to go into the store and buy one and you know, that sort of thing as well. And you know, you didn't look at anybody straight in the eye. And it took me back to that place for myself and and you know, there were young women on the documentary, but there were also old, older adult women who had that same, were holding on to that same sense of shame and embarrassment about it all. So, besides the documentary itself, you know, the familiarity with the issue and the struggle that girls have, this was what broke my heart a bit about therefore they did not stay in school because they did not have access to these hygiene items. And you know, dare I say even the clean water beyond the hygiene items, and I was fascinated by the fact that they thought of it as an illness. So, you know, that to me is just all part of it, right?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 15:22
And they couldn't go to temple. Do you remember that part, that like they weren't allowed to because God wouldn't hear their prayers during that week. (t's so crazy to hear). I know. I know. So I didn't know this before, but in preparation for this episode I did a little digging and I found a number of informative websites talking about period poverty. And one article from Global Citizen was written by Alia Rodriguez in September of 2022. And she explains that, quote, "Some countries, states and cities around the world have passed laws mandating schools provide period products to students, deeming them as essential as toilet paper. But more work needs to be done. In fact, U.S. federal prisons only made menstrual products free in 2018." I can't even imagine that. Okay. "In addition, a study from 2017 showed that nearly one in five girls had missed school due to lack of access to period products." Now, Elizabeth, as a high school teacher, is this happening even here in our area at your school that you know of?
Elizabeth Adsit 16:32
So I think there are some girls that miss school because they don't feel well or they have cramps or things like that. But I've never heard of a kid missing school because of their lack of access to pads or anything like that. Um, It's just something that I think we take for granted. Like, we just are able to walk into a store and we don't even think about it. It just is.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 16:55
Although I will just intercede here for a quick second. We do have a nonprofit here in Frisco called Refresh Frisco and Saba is nodding her head that that is a big ask them is supplying products to families and children because sometimes, especially when both parents have lost jobs, and there's gaps in funding, like it's a thing.
Marsha Clark 17:18
And I'll add also for our local listeners in McKinney, my grandchildren's daycare provider has an nonprofit called Baby Booties. And she distributes not only diapers, but she has added over the last year or so feminine hygiene products where people can literally drive through her church parking lot, and pick up their diapers and their feminine hygiene products for the same reasons that you're describing. So there are, it's here, whether we'd like to think about it or not and we do have people that are trying to address it through the nonprofit world. And so, Saba, the term period poverty. Had you heard about that before?
Saba Ilyas 17:59
The term itself no, the concept yes, clearly, because I've seen, you know, I hate to say it, but lived a little part of it, not to any extent that this is. But you're right about Refresh Frisco. It is an amazing organization that we have here and they have an ask, and we don't realize, yes, we're in Frisco but there's people here in need as well. And that's something that oftentimes I find people going, in Frisco?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 18:24
Yeah. And I want to be clear for our listeners. It's not just sanitary products for women. It's toothpaste. It's shampoo, shaving cream and razors and deodorant and things that you know, for, for junior high and high school kids.
Marsha Clark 18:39
When things are, I know, when things are so hard at that age anyway. Just think about let's give them the basics.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 18:47
Right. I know.
Saba Ilyas 18:49
Poverty definitely exists in many areas.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 18:53
Yeah. So there were so many examples in the documentary of stories of inspiration and hope, also. So, here's my first question. What inspired you the most from the film? Saba, we're going to start with you.
Saba Ilyas 19:09
So, there's women in there, there's young kids in there. I have to say I have to go back to the men in the movie. To be a woman and be able to talk about this on camera, forget the on camera part of it, to be able to talk about this. You know, growing up my conversations with my grandmother, were not there. My mom barely touched it because it was just you know, you don't talk about these things. You definitely don't ask much questions. Just, you know it's not something that you sit around talking about. It's something that happens with girlfriends and you sit around hey, this has happened or this, you know, this happens and all of those misconceptions of everything, right. But the men in the movie, the fact that they were even willing to talk about it on camera. They had little information, the young men, you know, it was funny how they thought was a disease. And then the older men, the young men more so because there's more of an understanding, there's a social media culture, there's information. It's out there, you know, it's in your face and more so than ever. And but the older gentlemen that were in the movie, and one thing that that just struck me was the gentleman whose house most of the work was happening in, and how quickly he answered the question. And he wasn't really even sure. And he called it Huggies. Yeah. And the first thing in my mind goes what an amazing campaign Huggies has done. whoever was in charge of that really got it. And so he called it Huggies, and which is a local, you know, we all know, diapers. And so he called it Huggies. And then he said, Okay, thank you. And he rushed out. You know, he just rushed out. He's like, I'm good with this interview. This is it. And even the older gentlemen that they interviewed later. That was interesting how they couldn't formulate the words, but they knew, but they spoke about it which never, like I can never imagine my father, let alone my grandfather.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 21:07
Elizabeth, how about you?
Elizabeth Adsit 21:09
So I think what inspired me most was similar to Saba. It's the way the men started to respect those women. They had a purpose. They were teaching them what they were doing, and selling and demonstrating. And it's like, they got this newfound hope in their life. Truly it was an inspiration to watch and see.
Marsha Clark 21:35
The phrase here in America now is men as allies. So the men were definitely allies. Saba, I have to tell you that your story, your story about talking with your grandmother, and how it was, you know, so hard and all that. But I have to tell my story on this. So my mother never talked to me about this. And I was an avid reader, I read everything there was. She put this book out on, you know, a table in my bedroom. And my job was to dust. On Saturday, I dusted the house, right? I picked that book up and put it down every time. And I didn't even know what it was about. But it just never caught me. And I read everything. So my mother and I never had a conversation about it. And I had to wait till seventh grade health class, you know, during PE or before to learn. So I had forgotten about that. Even watching this, this movie. And I thought, oh my gosh. Okay, so I want to say there were so many things that inspired me. One was the fact that the school project, the fact that kids in America did something for people around the world, the fact that they made their own pads. Now, would we do that ladies? I mean, just think about that, that might never occur to me. The fact that they then went about selling them in a culture that was so anti or taboo or hard. And they had never sold anything before, right, which was one of the one of the women talked about that. And I love the pride that they took, and the fact that they named the product Fly, right, as women soar that you know. And then I was also inspired by the woman, she kept the goal in mind, I want to be a police officer. I want to buy my brothers suits. I mean, some of those things that she talked about, and again, it wasn't so much for herself, but for her family and for her community and for girls and women. So that was very inspiring to me.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 23:27
I think what was inspirational to me also was towards the end of the movie you see some of the older men coming in to the manufacturing area and learning how to use the machine, to create them. And that like that's really removing the taboo big time because now you've got men in there helping the women create the product. And then when she took the tarp off that back room and there were like 50,000 back there. I'm like, you go. But I mean, to your point, Marsha, about they had never sold anything before, I thought, okay, they're doing the thing that's removing that barrier at the corner shop with the man behind the counters. They're going door to door, Mary Kay style and selling from woman to woman, which really, again, reduces the taboo. It probably keeps the costs lower. It's just, it's easier. I don't know, it just, that made me, gave me chills.
Marsha Clark 24:34
Well, they said these, ours are uglier, but they're better. I said that's selling what you believe in.
Saba Ilyas 24:41
There's also an education aspect of teaching women. We can, one, talk about this and two, this is how to do it correctly so you're not getting sick, or this is why this is more important than using a rag. This is going to prevent you from having further issues down the road. You know, that education from those older women to the younger women, I think that was also inspiring.
Marsha Clark 25:06
Yes, I agree.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 25:07
So what did everybody think when you saw how everyone in this documentary reacted to even talking about menstruation? I mean, to me, it showed how much embarrassment or even shame there is associated with periods. I mean, let's talk about that.
Elizabeth Adsit 25:25
Yeah, it was shocking to see how embarrassed they were to even talk about what a period is, although I never really wanted to talk about it either growing up. Like I remember my mom being so excited when I got my period, like it was this big rite of passage. And I was just embarrassed and didn't want to talk about it. And even now I go to the grocery store with my husband and I don't want to buy pads. Like, I want to just go on my own and buy them. I don't know why that is. It's ridiculous. But I think kids in the U.S. are still this way. Girls don't really just outright talk about it all of the time. They'll talk about, like, having cramps, so they're talking about it being annoying. But if they have to ask to go to the restroom for that reason, or go to the nurse for a pad, like they're very quiet and very secretive about it. So I think that stigma is still here in the U.S., that it's just something you don't really talk about.
Marsha Clark 26:18
And I want to tell you a little bit that's one of the reasons we wanted to do this video and, you know, have this conversation to kind of talk about the unspoken, right speak about the unspoken. So, it's not surprising to hear what you have to say because there are husbands or fathers that will not go into the store for their daughters or their wives, and you don't want your husband yet you'll do it yourself. And I mean, I think that's true in a pretty pervasive way.
Saba Ilyas 26:45
So, there's nothing sexier than watching a man going through Costco with a big box. Yes, I'm telling you, my husband is a saint. But I do agree. I think there's so much that that needs to be unwrapped here. And just on all angles, and it's, it is a taboo culture, right? I mean, I grew up in that culture. So it is a taboo when you can't talk about it with your mom, you don't have a correct understanding of it. Fun fact, or a fun story that my mom's probably going to die later when I share this. But growing up it was when I came of age and I got my period, I got my very, very early when I was 10, and my mother, the first couple of talks were, don't touch boys. When you touch boys, you get pregnant. So of course gym class, I bumped into a child, a boy, I was pregnant for three years. Three years I was pregnant.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 27:45
Oh, my. No.
Saba Ilyas 27:47
That's how little we talk about these things, right? And so when I told my mom this much later in life, she's sitting there laughing at me. Like what are you laughing at? And she's like, you believed me.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 27:58
Well, yeah. You're my mom!
Marsha Clark 28:02
Oh, my goodness.
Saba Ilyas 28:03
So this is how little we talk about these things. But it has definitely changed. You know, I'm in my late 40's. This has definitely changed over the years. We've had several conversations. My mother recently had a hysterectomy. So things have definitely changed over the years. Yeah, it's a blessing. And even with not just having conversations with with women, whether it's, you know, in your family or girlfriends or whatnot, but even having that conversation where it my husband, like I said, the sexiest man alive who comes out of Costco with a big box of pads. Or my boys. I can say I'm not feeling well right now. But I've never truthfully got into a whole discussion of what periods are and why mom isn't feeling well.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 28:41
Yeah, I think the embarrassment, to me, I don't understand, I do understand the embarrassment factor when you're 12 - 13 years old. Like that I get because you're embarrassed just be alive. That's just where you are. But when you know, the fact that we are four grown adult women here, I think we need to be having this conversation more because number one, it happens to every woman. And we are half the population. So I don't understand. You should be embarrassed if you don't have this happen to you. I mean, that's the whole other issue. So, that's.
Marsha Clark 29:24
Well, and what struck me about it, I mean, like we said, it's a disease, it's an illness, you know, it's it mostly affects ladies. It's interesting to have that point of view. How many of you have heard the word you know, in the hands, you know, kind of raised and all that kind of stuff? And, you know, I guess what I think that what made me sad was the example of the woman who would go out at night to bury her used menstrual cloth only to have it dug up, right. I mean, that in and of itself is like I'm trying to hide, I'm trying to bury it and pretend it's not there. And then it continues to get brought up. But then I have to also fast forward to where we are today and how many women get tagged with, 'Oh, she's on her period. It's that time of the month.'
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 30:06
As a disparagement.
Marsha Clark 30:07
Exactly, it is not just a fact. It is that, oh, if you don't do what I want you to, then you must be on your period. Then I go, well, that's our version of this, you know, the taboo of it all, or why when it's used against us in those ways, or how we don't, we're less likely to then bring it up and talk about it and deal with it, if you will.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 30:31
So Saba, I mentioned it a little bit earlier. But give us your, your response to the part about not being allowed to pray during your period.
Saba Ilyas 30:42
So the quote was, the comment was in the film, prayers are not being heard. And these were young women saying this, you know, when they're asked that question about what their elders have told them. And so again, this is my view and my understanding of where my religion falls as a Muslim woman. God is giving you this beautiful thing. Why would he then say, well, you're too dirty, you're too clean, and you can't pray, and I'm not gonna listen to you. Who are you to tell me when God's gonna listen to me or not gonna listen to me. And you don't get to take that away from me. So as a taboo, as a culture, I think, and understand that social media is a new thing. Before social media, our knowledge and education happened to our elders, and whatever they heard, they passed it down, you know, and now that we have so much information flowing from all ends, correct or incorrect, there's a lot of information. So a lot of things are being corrected, if you will, or understood better. It goes back to my understanding of what God's law is versus what man's interpretation of God's law. So going back to that, I know, for me, in my opinion of my religion, what my understanding is that it is a time for you. You are going through a cleanse. It is a time for you to rest, which is God has put it in there, to be able to have that moment. You are excused from your prayers. You should not have to get up and pretend that everything is normal. Why would he take away listening to you and who are you to tell me he's taken that away from me?
Marsha Clark 32:17
Yeah. You know, I read a book, it's been many, many years ago called the " The Red Tent" by Anita Diamant, I think is who the author is. And it talked about in biblical times how women were basically banished to a tent when they were in their periods, and they were not allowed to be around anyone else. And I remember recommending this book to my mother. And it was, it's what I would describe as historical fiction, right? So, it was an embellishment or an extrapolation, rather, of what you thought it all meant. And my mother read it. And it was, and she did not finish it, which was also unusual for my mother. She said, I don't want to confuse what the Bible says and what this book says. And I mean, it's that spiritual, it was that spiritual for her. And, not only is it a time for rest and cleansing, but, Elizabeth, something you said about this rite of passage. The first time I ever heard Maya Angelou speak, it was to a women's group. And she said they have an annual family reunion where large swathes of families show up, and that they have a part of that every single year for every young girl who has since started her period goes with the elders to your point, Saba, and they talk about the gift of the menstrual cycle, that you are now a giver of life. And, you know, they don't make it this taboo. And I thought, what a wonderful ritual to have and that it's expected and the little girls, you know, what are they doing over there? You know, I want to go over there. When am I going to be old enough to go join that group? So it puts a really different spin on it from the very beginning. So it's funny how y'all are saying something and then I go, Oh, yeah, and remember those things about all of this. And so to that point, both of you, Elizabeth and Saba, you're around the younger generation more than Wendi and I are. Do you notice that today's youth based on here, at least in the U.S. are more open about talking about it? And I know you touched on that Elizabeth about, you know, menstrual cramps and they'll go into those sort of things. How do you think if you if we were to have young people on this podcast, what do you think they would be saying about this? And Saba, let's start with you.
Saba Ilyas 34:30
So again, going back to the movie, you saw the demeanor of the young girls, the giggling, not being able to talk about it, and that you saw that in different ages that saw in the movie, right? You saw that one woman who had her hands across her chest and that closed. You know, I don't want to be a part of this, but I'm talking about it, but I don't know if I can do this. And so I see a change in our younger generation because there is education. There is even from a religious perspective where in my community, in my culture, what I see here in Frisco is that moms want their children to be educated. So they know what the right and wrong is, what the parameters are, what to do, how to do it. So they are more self confident and don't think they're pregnant for three years. You know, I think that's very important. I think that change in education, be it because of a social media or just the fact that kids are growing up a lot faster. They're being thrown into situations that they've never heard of before. We've got a lot going on in their in our environments on a daily basis. I think I'm grateful for the moms that are stepping up and saying, let's have these conversations. And they're not just having these conversations with their girls, but they're having conversations with their families. And, so, people understand what is a respectful way of dealing with this. Yes, it's an uneasy conversation, even as an as a woman before I came on here thinking, period, what do you mean on a podcast? And so, you know, I had to go through that. So that stigma of just being uncomfortable talking about it is still there. And that could just be ingrained in us from, you know, just all the things that we have as far as baggage. But I am grateful that we are having conversations like this, we were having conversations in our institutions, in our you know, schools and different Facebook groups and different social media outlets that we can share.
Elizabeth Adsit 36:20
Yeah, I agree. I think in schools, especially, it's still a girl problem in the U.S. Like, boys don't want to talk about it, they don't want to hear about it. It doesn't exist to them. Some girls will talk a little bit more openly about it. Because I'm a choir director, I have kids in my room all the time. They eat lunch in there, they hang out after school. And so if it's just me and a few girls hanging out in my office, they'll talk about it. But in a big class size setting with boys in there, like they're not going to just openly talk about it. So I do feel like that stigma is still there. But it is like Saba said, it's there's more education behind it now. And so I don't think that they're as afraid to talk about it. They just they don't a lot.
Marsha Clark 37:10
So I'm gonna ask a fundamental question. Do they teach it? Do the kids like, I learned it in class in seventh grade. Are they even teaching it in the schools?
Elizabeth Adsit 37:18
I think so. I remember in elementary school sitting, like they separated the girls and the boys. I was in fifth grade or sixth grade and we had like the talk, and they talked about periods and they talked about pads and they talked about just your body changing and all of that kind of stuff. And so I think that that still happens.
Marsha Clark 37:39
Okay, you know, with so much of the I don't want my school teaching that, I'll teach them. I mean, I didn't know where that was in today's world. And I would also like to add there's another book called "A Woman's Life" by Joan Borysenko. And she breaks women's lives into seven year stretches. So what happens in your first seven years, and she talks about biologically, emotionally, you know, all of that kind of stuff. And one of the things I learned in her book, which I did not know before is that, typically, girls, this is, again, bell shaped curve research, but typically, girls start their periods when they reach about 110 pounds. And that with the obesity problem in America, that that's coming earlier. So girls are starting their periods even earlier. And then two other factors are associated with it. One is the estrogen fortified foods that put more estrogen in our bodies which is also a contributor to starting your menstrual cycle. And that light, both artificial and real, stimulates the production of estrogen in our bodies. So they've been tracking it, and ever since we went from lights out when the sun went down because we didn't have electric lights, but since even kerosene lamps or the electric light, that the amounts of estrogen in womens' bodies, in girls' bodies have been increasing. So all of that is contributing, and the biological aspect of that I thought was really fascinating. And I think that's another thing because we are often asking ourselves, these, you know, 12 year old girls that look 25, right, or they're developing so much sooner and all that kind of stuff. And that's a part of the reason why. Something else to maybe bring up here is that and I love that Tracie wrote this, that we're flooded -and she says no pun intended. I'm thinking maybe it was - with advertising for feminine products in our country. So it's on the TV, it's commercial, it's all those kinds of things. And you know, in that idea of our girls feeling more comfortable, you know, our bodies, ourselves and less shame about female functions. That was a part of what we talked about last year, "She's Beautiful When She's, or last week, "She's Beautiful When She's Angry" and this idea of our bodies, ourselves and just what women went through to take it out of the closet and bring it out into the open more. So I just wanted to reference that from a previous podcast. And shifting gears a little bit, I was also really touched by the independence and the confidence of the women who started that, when they started to display that, after they learned how to make the pads with the machine, and went out to sell them. And as I mentioned, that was one of my most inspiring moments. And there were a couple of different references to money in my pocket, which, you know, we talk a lot on here about financial security and making sure you're paid fairly, and so on. And, you know, being the first income that they had ever earned. And I'm curious for our guests, how did that sequence in the film impact you even in thinking about learning how to run a machine, and then how to go out, sell and make money? So Elizabeth?
Elizabeth Adsit 40:54
So I think I've said this already, but I just loved that they were getting the respect of the men in the community and their husbands for working, for doing something. I also love seeing their confidence grow with their success and the demonstrations and selling their pads. Like the one woman talking about how she never thought that she would just do one demonstration and sell out. She was getting people excited about this. And the girl that bought the suit for her brother, and talking about how he is supposed to buy gifts for her, but she finally had the money to be able to do that for him and how excited she was. It's just, it's inspiring to see and to watch.
Marsha Clark 41:34
It is. How about you, Saba?
Saba Ilyas 41:35
But does money in your pocket mean more independence and more security? And you know, more power? Is that what we're, you know, I mean, it's, I'm looking at these women going and I could hear because I understood language, I could hear some of the back conversations that were happening during when they were trying to sell the products there. And just those little conversations, and it was so inspiring to see these women asking these questions, and, and these other women being able to say, hey, you could do it. You know, this is needed. We need you. We, you know, the Mary Kay recruitment kind of thing. We need you. And so and that confidence that they were building in that next generation. But there was this one woman who was cooking and you saw her sitting there by the stove. And she said, 'You know, I've never had to do anything besides the kitchen and the house. So this, I have something more to do. My husband's asking me why. And I said I know.' She had that, she was saying stuff like that. And I was just like 'Wow, you know, we're really changing. Opening your mind to new possibilities'
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 42:36
Right. Well, I think that money in my pocket and income and your question, Saba, is a really good one. Does that mean more power? I don't know that I would put the word power to it. I would here in the U.S. because that's a definite guess because we're such a consumer culture and we're very type A and driven and we've, that's been the foundation bedrock of our psyche since the beginning. But in India, I would propose that for these women, it's not so much power, it's choice. It's having a different, it's, it's having a new opportunity to make different choices about things. So having that money in their pocket means then I can buy a suit from my brother or I can save or I can put it down on another course so that I can become a police officer. It gives them choice in order to expand their world. And it also gives them the confidence. I think that one of the biggest things that money does for us as a human race is it gives us confidence to then they're feeling good about themselves, and they feel less fear about trying to help other women, recruit other women into also being salespeople.
Marsha Clark 43:53
Well, here's what I would say. And this is where men and women can differ about the power or value of money. For women, it's a means to an end. It's not like I'm collecting a lot of money, right? That's how men, it's both the means and the end for men. The guy with the most toys wins, right, or dies with the most toys. This ability to buy the suit for my brother, to take the course to be a police officer. The thing that was that struck me in it though was that when she said it could also protect her from marriage. This idea about you know, and look this was true in America, too. If you're a woman, if you are going to live long and prosperous you are going to be married because your husband was going to take care of you after your father. Your father took care of you, you got married, your husband took it. Well, so all of a sudden now It goes back to choice and options. That doesn't have to be my future. That doesn't have to be my destiny. I now have a bigger, broader end. So possibilities is what the whole idea created for me.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 44:59
I'd also like like to just unpack just for a tiny bit. I don't want to get too far off script, but the fact that she used the phrase, 'protect me from'. Protect me from. That is very powerful in itself. Go ahead, Saba.
Saba Ilyas 45:16
So ,what you're what you're seeing is a family dynamic of these are, these are girls, daughters in the household. You're seeing the parents going, well, I need to get her married so I can have one less mouth to feed, possibly, you know. And so that's where the protection comes in. I am now a breadwinner, I am now making some money. Now, I'm not considered a financial burden, right. So that that power that I'm talking about, that is what that's what it is. It's giving her the power of choice, the power of freedom. It's just so many opportunities.
Marsha Clark 45:48
Yeah. I love that.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 45:50
So this really shows the significant impact not only economically for the women, but also the simple freedom to be able to leave their homes without worrying that they would end up bleeding everywhere, and then have to deal with that and public shame as well. So any thoughts on that, Elizabeth?
Elizabeth Adsit 46:09
I just can't even imagine having to like, go to this far off place to change my clothes all the time, be afraid to leave my house. I mean, I just can't even imagine what that is even like for them. I can't put myself in their shoes. I can't also imagine being referred to as dirty. It's a natural process. Like it's something that every woman goes through. And it's not illness. It's not a disease. It's natural. But to be considered dirty, I just can't, I can't wrap my head around that.
Saba Ilyas 46:45
That almost seems demeaning, using the word dirty. Yeah, it feels it feels like someone's demeaning you. And this is a natural cleanse that your body's being put through. So how could it be dirty? And so yeah, I agree.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 46:58
Well, one of our favorite things around here to celebrate when we see women supporting women, it's one of our favorite things to do. So where in this documentary did all of you see examples of women supporting women?
Elizabeth Adsit 47:14
I think it was all over the documentary. Yeah, I mean, from creating a job for themselves, learning how to sell and to demonstrate it, and they're...
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 47:26
Operate the machine. I was like watching them and I'm like, 'Okay, I need a manual.'
Elizabeth Adsit 47:33
And also the brand name, Fly, because they wanted women to rise and fly like, that's huge.
Saba Ilyas 47:46
And then seeing, having used different pads in just a few different countries, I often see Fly or Butterflies. And so I went and it never clicked to me until I read that. And I said, Yeah, that's what they're really saying. So, it's just empowering women to be able to make those choices and soar and not have to worry about having soiled clothings or just sanitation.
Marsha Clark 48:10
Well, and I see it as even, dare I call it a movement, a movement of women. You know how we say that, we've got the saying here, we can do hard things, right? They can do hard things and this idea of if this is possible, what else is possible for women whether it be in other production jobs, or sales jobs, or, you know, communication jobs, or whatever it might be. To me that was the bigger women supporting women that hit me.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 48:40
Yeah. And I think even just to go back to the very beginning, the fact that this was a classroom project. And I'm thinking to myself about how many girls in the United States probably had to convince their boy classmates, this is a worthwhile project. There was probably some selling that had to go on with having this become even a thing and that's women, young girls, young women, supporting women halfway around the world, which is just, you know, people they'll never meet and beautiful.
Marsha Clark 49:15
So, you know, I want to give a shout out to the PadMan. I'm just, and I'm gonna butcher this so, Saba, you may need to help me. Muruganantham. Sounds close enough. which I had written on the script, or the screen, but we don't know how to say it, but and he's the one who invented the pad machine that they were using. So we've had shout outs to the men as allies and that sort of thing. And he's in the film just briefly, but there are a number of videos online where he tells the story of his own challenges and in trying to build the machine and including the part where he couldn't get any women to be testers because going back to the taboo, so he created his own menstrual bag, and I believe it was goat's blood that he would squeeze occasionally to leak onto a pad tucked in his undies. And I just think that was amazing for someone to be that tenacious and try to, you know, create the real deal. And inevitably, he would end up with an embarrassing spot on his pants. And in addition to gaining tremendous sympathy for girls and women, he also gained a reputation for being a little eccentric. Why would some man want to do that, right? And we'll include his full name in the show notes because I want our listeners to if they're so inclined to go learn more about him, because he's, he is quite a character, and he was and is a big ally.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 50:45
Yep. So, the school principal near the end of the episode said something that stood out for me. She said, "Women are the base of any society, and are more powerful, but don't recognize that in themselves. They don't know how much power they have and what they can do." So what do we all think about that statement? Agree, disagree? Why, why not? Elizabeth, let's start with you.
Elizabeth Adsit 51:11
So I agree with his statement, especially in this documentary. I think that women have struggled all over the world to have a place in society and be respected for their intelligence. I know we've come a long way in the U.S. with women's rights but it's obvious that some places are still working to create more equal rights for women and men. There would be no society if women weren't caring and birthing children, and they need the confidence to be who they are and not be afraid to stand up for what they believe in and demand the respect they deserve.
Marsha Clark 51:37
Saba Ilyas 51:40
So, I hate that we have to demand it though. In this day and age, we have to demand respect. We are vessels that have, that carry life. We give birth, you know, that is so powerful in itself. But we have to demand respect even to this day and age. And so women fixing each other's crowns are so important. Having that support system is so important. We are all capable of wearing crowns. Sometimes we need others to remind us that hey, you've got a superpower. Don't forget it. Yeah. And that has to happen every day. That has to be something that you live and walk through.
Marsha Clark 52:19
Wendi, how about you?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 52:20
Well, for me, this is tying back to some other documentaries that we've watched and are and are also going to and talked about. Just I think it comes from just the historical nature of the vast difference between power, authority, agency between men and women and how recent in you know, the whole timeline as a human race, how recent it is that women are considered equal. I mean, it is here in America for sure. I mean, we're considered equal, even though we still don't, aren't compensated equally, and you know, all the other things. But at least we've moved more towards a more a egalitarian position. But I still think it comes from decades and centuries of a wound in our DNA that we are carrying forth from our ancestors as women, from our mothers, our grandmothers, our great grandmothers, all the way back, that disparity, and we carry that and especially, I'm just going to say it for all of our listeners all over the U.S., especially here in the south. Here in the south, it is an institution to continue to keep this disparity between the sexes under the name of gentlemanliness or gentility, or southern charm or whatever or religion. And so, you know, this idea that we're the base of any society. I like to remind myself that, you know, in all the religions, the woman was created last. We were created last, so that means we were the best.
Marsha Clark 54:18
I was gonna say continuous improvement.
Saba Ilyas 54:20
There wasn't a need for anything else after that.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 54:22
That's right. That's right. Exactly right.
Marsha Clark 54:27
Yeah. You know, our listeners have heard me say this before. One of my, one of my favorite hashtags and what I want my legacy to be is for my grandchildren to live in a world that values women and girls. That's my period. And I share the sentiment certainly that women are more powerful. And I also want to say that when we work together we are even exponentially more powerful and I always go back to the women supporting women piece. So another really powerful moment for me in the documentary was at the end, when Sneha said, "I will fulfill my parents dreams, fulfill my dreams, a dream to see Fly pads in every store." She understood the impact both economically and socially, that what those pads meant to her and what they could mean to other women in her country. So when you heard that, and Saba, I was thinking, you said, when I go to those countries, and I see Fly on or Butterfly, so just interesting. What did that, what did that raise up for you or what feelings did that engender?
Saba Ilyas 55:41
So, the fact that there is now freedom, right, on so many levels, not just being able to one, take care of yourself and protect yourself from diseases and just in a hygienic manner, learning more about what your body does, and how it needs to be taken care of, but also having the mobility to be able to step out of the house, even while you have your period and be able to go do things that you normally would not be able to do because you'd be afraid that you know, you'd get a spot somewhere. And again, in that area, understand, bathrooms aren't easy to come by. It's not just at a village or a small city level, but you know, general bathrooms are not something like you know, everyone can use, they're not readily available. So women have a hard time in general trying to use the bathroom when they're outside in the market, you know. They're not always there. So imagine someone who has to deal with having a spot or a stain and then having to find a way to fix that. You know, how many times have we stopped on a day and gone to Target and be like, you know, gotta take care of this right now. Where's the store? 711? Whatever. And so that's not something they have, but now they do. And that's just endless possibility.
Elizabeth Adsit 56:56
I was just so happy to see that they have a vision. And they found a way to make it become a reality. This dream can really change the future for women in their community. And sometimes I feel like my voice is so small in a sea of voices in this world. But she had the power and drive to make her voice loud for change.
Marsha Clark 57:13
You know, what, when I stepped back and thought, why did that, why did that hit me in such a way? I thought it was about they're really serving a larger purpose, right? It's beyond themselves. And yet, the young woman who says I still want to go to police school, right? She didn't lose herself in that process, right? I mean, so it was serving a larger good, and not losing herself in the process. To me, that was really powerful.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 57:38
Yep. So I kept hearing the phrase 'Now that we know better, we do better' floating around in my head after watching this, really after watching all the videos from the series. But specifically focused on today, I keep wondering, now that I know about this thing, period poverty and the pad project and other similar programs, I'm asking myself now what? Now what do I do with this new awareness?
Marsha Clark 58:04
And Wendi, I'm right there with you. You know, I said, in the very beginning of this podcast, I know I'm going to be a financial supporter for it. And I just want our listeners to know we're going to post some links to some resources and organizations like the pad project. Go Aunt Flow, I know, I've got to do more research on that one, or girlshelpinggirlsperiod.org. And that's just to name a few. And we can also do a quick internet search for any other local organizations. Our listeners can do that wherever they may be, that may have the availability of organizations that can provide free or low cost hygiene items, and donate to them whether it be the items themselves or a monetary contribution. And I'm wondering, Saba and Elizabeth, you know, given your positions where you spend as much time as you do around young women, can you think of anything specific that you want to do as a result of watching the documentary? And if so, how can we support you?
Saba Ilyas 59:03
So, for me, one of the things that I think Wendi said earlier is, you know, we're often thrown, we're often thrown back in our face. Oh, you must be that time of the month. So the support system that what I could do better is that continued education. I think besides supporting organizations, much like you said, Refresh Frisco and the others that are here. Again, there is a need. Don't think there isn't a need even here in Frisco. But supporting the education aspect of this I think is so important because I bleed and I still continue my day. We don't stop. Nothing stops us. We just maybe take some meds and keep going. So I am powerful and I am strong and I need every other woman and girl to understand that there is power in who they are. And we will, it shouldn't be thrown in our face that oh, you bleed.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 59:59
Yeah, heck I bleed. ( Yeah, disappear until...) I bleed and I move on.
Elizabeth Adsit 1:00:07
I think I'm definitely inspired to do more research about these organizations and find out how I can be of help to them. I'd love to see, I live out in Sachse, and so I would love to see if there's organizations that I can support there in my home community. And I think it's also important that the stigma around periods be taken away from young women. I think I'll be less hesitant to have conversations with my students when necessary.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 1:00:33
Yeah, yeah. Well, Marsha, I'm sad to say we're at the end of our show. And yet, we're also at the end of the Fight for Freedom series. I mean, this has been a powerful month.
Marsha Clark 1:00:44
Yeah, it really has been powerful. Of course, one of our favorite words is power. And today I think was the perfect ending to this journey that we've been exploring freedom. And we've gone from the suffrage movement to the women's liberation revolution, to today's exploration of how something as simple as a sanitary napkin can provide freedom for a girl to pursue her dreams. So, Saba and Elizabeth, first I want to say thank you for being here and for sharing your stories and your thoughts about all of this, as well as insights and experiences that you have in your everyday world. And we usually like to close with one final "aha" from this session. So I asked you, what's the thing that you want to be sure to share with our listeners on this topic?
Elizabeth Adsit 1:00:45
So, there was a line that stuck out to me in this documentary. And it was "Our pad is like a man who is not good looking."
Marsha Clark 1:01:45
I love that, too. I laughed so hard.
Elizabeth Adsit 1:01:48
The product did not need to be beautiful to be effective and good quality. It provided these women with the freedom to leave their house and go out into the world without worrying of needing to change clothes because they bled through them. Again, it's something I feel like I take for granted in my life before watching this documentary, but it's not something I've ever had to worry about.
Saba Ilyas 1:02:08
So, for me, the "aha" moment was not just watching the movie, but having this conversation here and realizing, you know, the need is still there for education, and to change the stigmas and have conversations to have people whether it's men, women, young, old, realize that this is a thing. It's not, it is a taboo subject in many areas, but it should not be and how we need to continuously work to have conversations to educate our boys so they can be better at about taking care of their, exactly, be allies and educate our young girls, so they know where their power lies.
Marsha Clark 1:02:50
And it's nothing to be embarrassed about, nothing to be ashamed of.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 1:02:53
Right. So, I don't have one "aha" moment. This whole episode has been way too much fun. And thank you to both Saba and Elizabeth for being here on the show. You were perfect additions to this episode and this conversation. So, Marsha. Marsha, I'm gonna let you wrap up with your "aha" moment.
Marsha Clark 1:03:12
Well, and, you know, it goes a bit to what both of you are saying. It's a reminder that once again, I take things for granted because I live in the United States of America, right? And that, you know, as a woman, that things aren't always available to other women around the world. And that is a perspective that I don't want to lose. It's a good reminder that of that truth. And I also think about how each of us has a role we can play and it's like, I'm a tiny voice lost in a sea of voices or not, right? I mean, a tiny voice or a single act can start things moving and rolling. And just as they saw this pad project as opening up possibilities, I think, I hope this podcast opens up possibilities for our listeners to think about do you, are you part of a girls' group? Do you have the ability to get a grip to raise money to contribute to whether it be a local something in Sachse or Frisco or you know, wherever it may be or to another country? And I think that's it. So I just want to say again, thank you to all of our guests today, certainly, Elizabeth and Saba. Wendi, you're always the hostess with the mostess. And, and to our listeners, I hope you gain some new thoughts and insights. I hope that by saying all these things out loud and on a podcast that it takes some of that stigma away from the embarrassment or the taboo aspect of this. It's important. It's something that's special and unique for women and girls, and I also hope that you're inspired to continue, as we always do, and think about closing in new and important ways. "Here's to women supporting women and girls!"
Transcribed by https://otter.ai