By Lizzie Knothe
For the last few months, I have been working with Lily, specifically on a special project called “Pulseras de Poder” or “Power Bracelets” These bracelets help explain the menstrual cycle. The bracelets are straightforward and simple: 28 beads for the 28 days of the cycle, 3 different colors to determine neutral time, ovulation, and menstruation, along with a moveable charm to allow for counting the beads to keep track of the days. No need to read nor write, only to remember to move the little charm each day.
Working with women and girls on this project has been a huge learning experience. Almost everyone I speak with is familiar with the concept of what is known here as “la regla” or the menstrual period, yet not everyone is comfortable talking about it. Statistics show that nearly 90% of women here in Nicaragua lack menstrual education, or view their period as a disease. 1 in 4 girls in Nicaragua will become a teen mom, yielding one of the highest adolescent pregnancy rates in the world. Lily is set out to change this. I have the privilege of teaching women about their bodies, and sharing Lily’s mission that everyone has a RIGHT to a healthy life, and that healthy life happens with empowerment through education.
I always like to make a few things clear when talking about the menstrual cycle. These would be the things I would like to leave as a message to the women and girls of Nicaragua:
1. Periods are normal. They are a sign that your body is healthy.
2. Periods are POWERFUL. With periods come responsibility. It is our responsibility as women to take good care of ourselves, be prepared, and be safe.
3. Simply because a girl has received her period does not make her an adult. Yes, periods can be viewed as a rite of passage from girl to woman, but many outside factors are involved in becoming an adult, such as emotional maturity, financial independence etc.
4. Women are in charge of their own bodies and decisions. The choice to have unprotected sex resulting in a pregnancy is a choice, but it requires 2 people and therefore should result in shared responsibility.
5. Motherhood is a beautiful, powerful thing. However, motherhood is not the sole purpose of women, and being a mother is not the only thing that defines a woman. Waiting to be a mother until she is ready, or deciding motherhood is not for her does not mean she has any less value as a human being.
Women and girls, every day that I speak with you, I am in awe of your strength.I empathize with many of the difficulties that come with being a woman, particularly a woman living in a culture dominated by machismo values, however, there are some things I could never empathize with. To those things I say: remember you are strong, you are worthy, you are brave. You can do hard things, and don’t let anyone ever tell you differently. The Lily Project cares about you, and lastly, you are enough.