Actor and advocate Michael Sheen wants to talk about reproductive organs, and this time it isn’t on his show Masters of Sex.
The star is supporting #Pads4Dads, a new initiative to end period poverty in the UK and push for better period education in schools. Launched on March 11 by Hey Girls, a Scottish menstrual equity organization, the campaign is promoting a toolkit to make fathers feel more comfortable discussing the menstruation process with their children.
“Let’s not leave dads out of the bloody conversation,” says Sheen — who has a 19-year-old daughter with actress Kate Beckinsale — in a #Pad4Dads promotional video.
Today I'm debunking the common myth that Dads can't (or won't) get involved in talking periods with our daughters. Thanks to @HeyGirlsUK for bringing Dads to the table with all we need to know #Pads4Dadshttps://t.co/HgfyLpZaqppic.twitter.com/J531cEmHfn— michael sheen (@michaelsheen) March 11, 2019
Hey Girls had real fathers weigh in to create the #Pad4Dads kit, which includes a 20-page manual, A Dad’s Guide to Periods, that teaches men about menstruation. Fathers also have the option to order a toolkit for £12.95 that comes with sanitary products, and hot chocolate to make bringing up the topic easier.
“We wanted to create something empowering to give dads a helping hand,” Celia Hodson, the founder of Hey Girls, said of the idea behind the toolkit.
It's nuts that half the population have periods but yet they're still seen as secret and shameful… Well not on our watch thanks to our new #Pads4Dads guide!— Hey Girls (@HeyGirlsUK) March 18, 2019
Have you downloaded yours yet? https://t.co/XRNYXAGpUApic.twitter.com/3wQlshngWs
Due to stigma and taboos around menstruation, fathers don’t always have the language to talk about menstruation openly with their children. In a small survey Hey Girls conducted with 1,500 men, 40% said they had never been taught about periods in school and 45% of fathers are unsure what the signs are that their child might be about to start their period.
This lack of information trickles down –– a 2017 survey in the UK found that 26% of girls did not know what to do when they started their period.
“Including men and boys into these conversations will help dispel their misconceptions as they become supportive brothers, husbands, and fathers,” Craig Geddes, senior technical adviser, education and child protection, at Plan International USA told Global Citizen of Hey Girls' effort.
Girls across the globe regularly miss days of school on a monthly basis and are subject to ridicule and abuse because of their periods, Geddes explained. The cultural shame attached to menstruation and a shortage of resources stop people who menstruate from reaching their full potential.
Thorsten Kiefer, the founder of the global sanitation advocacy organization WASH United, wants to shift the conversation about menstrual hygiene management.
“When it comes to menstruation, people tend to reduce the issue to products,” he told Global Citizen. “But everything starts with education, so that girls have at least a basic understanding of what menstruation is and are enabled to make informed choices on how they want to manage theirs. Menstrual hygiene education in schools is a global challenge that requires a lot more attention and funding.”
In addition to helping lower income people who menstruate in the UK have better access to menstrual products, Hey Girls advocates for more education about periods in schools for boys and girls.
“Engaging men in the conversation around menstruation is critical to truly ensuring there is holistic support and space for a young girl to truly embrace her educational and empowerment journey,” Geddes said.