Woman of the Week is Stylist’s weekly celebration of women who are making a difference to society. Here, we talk to Gabby Edlin, the woman behind Bloody Good Period.
Volunteering has always been a part of Gabby Edlin’s life. Growing up in a Jewish family in Manchester, she was taught to donate either her time or money to help good causes: as a teenager, she attended Habonim Dror, which she describes as a “slightly hippie, very creative summer camp where the whole focus is on social action and changing the world.” As an adult, she got a master’s degree in applied imagination in the creative industries, which was “very much about social change through creativity”.
So it’s little wonder that Edlin went on to create Bloody Good Period, the first charitable project in the period poverty movement to focus on the needs of refugee and asylum seeking women, whilst also disrupting the period industry and the way people talk about menstruation.
When Edlin started volunteering at a drop-in centre for asylum seekers and refugees in north London in October 2016, she learnt that sanitary products were classed as ‘emergency’ items and weren’t widely available to women visiting the centre. Deciding that periods should no longer be an afterthought, Edlin began asking friends on Facebook to donate sanitary products for her to take to the centre.
“I was aiming to collect around 100 packs of pads, but by the end of the month I had thousands – and it’s never let up since,” she says. “Not only did people really need it, it’s something people wanted to get on board with.”
Edlin set up an Amazon wish list – which Bloody Good Period still uses to this day – that people could use to donate pads, liners and tampons. She faced some backlash at the beginning, and was frequently told that other, more prominent charities were already dealing with the problem of period poverty. But she knew that something needed to change: “I feel really strongly that your period shouldn’t disempower you.”
Fast-forward to 2018, and Bloody Good Period has around 70 volunteers and a constant stream of people wanting to contribute. The organisation donates “a few thousand packs” of sanitary products a month, as well as other items, to 11 drop-in centres across London and Leeds.
“We’re always getting notifications from people around the world saying they’re raising money for Bloody Good, so there are actually hundreds of people involved,” says Edlin. “We also get donations of toiletries, knickers, the things people forget that you need to live day to day. Sometimes we get donations of make-up, moisturisers or shampoos and the women really love that.”
Other than being able to provide the sanitary products that women both need and want, Edlin says it’s the people she meets that make her work with Bloody Good Period worth it. “I’ve met the most incredible women; there’s so much love at the drop-in centres. I love being able to talk about periods with the women who come in.”
Predictably, not everyone feels comfortable with the work done by Bloody Good Period. At a recent Jewish awards ceremony, Edlin encountered a man onstage who barely seemed able to say the name of her organisation.
“He had to say I was from Bloody Good Period, and that to me was great,” she says, with relish. “That’s what the name is for, people like him who can’t get a grip and realise this is something half the population goes through every month.”
So what’s next? There are plans to make Bloody Good Period an official charity later this year, and to fundraise enough money for Edlin to be paid a small salary: she currently works full-time, running BGP as a purely voluntary enterprise in her (limited) spare time.
“And then we want to employ refugees and older women,” she says. “And hopefully embarrass more men!”
The Woman of the Week series is part of Stylist’s Visible Women campaign, dedicated to raising the profiles of brilliant women past and present. Find out more about the campaign here, and see more Visible Women stories here.
Main image: Jess Schamroth.