Feminist pedagogy in the field: menstrual activism and cross-cultural encounter in Tanzania

Authors: Kate Boyer*, Cardiff University, Holly Parfett, Division of Gender and International Relations, School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, Bristol University
Topics: Women, Gender, Field Methods
Keywords: feminist geography, activism, pedagogy, period poverty, Tanzania
Session Type: Paper
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Access to sanitary products and the right to manage menstruation without stigma or shame is essential for anyone who menstruates. Yet ‘period poverty’, or the denial of this right is a problem for women across a wide range of cultural contexts. This research considers the issue of period poverty in Arusha, Tanzania, together with grass-roots strategies for remediating it, through a ‘listening and sharing’ project with women from different areas and class backgrounds within schools and women’s organisations in Arusha. We note that this research emerged out of a collaborative undergraduate fieldwork project from a UK University, thus constituting a space of encounter across women from significantly different cultural backgrounds (though of approximately the same age) sharing experiences of menstruation. Research was further shaped by feminist-informed approaches to international development which stress the need to approach gender roles as socially constructed and therefore changeable, as well as a sensitivity to post-colonial critique of legacies of imposing ‘solutions’ from the global North on the Global South. Research revealed issues around access to sanitary products and restricted movement due to menstruation; as well as community-driven activist efforts change existing social norms around menstruation. Finally, we reflect on this research as a form of feminist geography pedagogy, considering both its benefits in extending knowledge about period poverty and feminist activism on the one hand, while also raising issues of privilege and the ethics and politics of cross-cultural encounter on the other.

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