Coming
of Age
in a Crisis 

In 2018 we met Oskelly Matute, a 17-year-old girl growing up in a crippling economic, social and political crisis; one that has entrapped Venezuela in poverty, corruption and crime for the past decade. She lives in Carapita, a favela in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, where just twenty minutes away from parliament, women and girls use scraps of old cloth to manage their periods.

Due to sky-rocketing inflation, prices rise rapidly and without warning, leaving most citizens struggling to pay for basic goods. Inflation affects Venezuelan women disproportionately as they must stretch their budgets to purchase sanitary pads and tampons, and if they can find any, soaps, shampoos and any other products that allow for basic hygiene.

Impoverished millionaires
Cash in sufficient amounts is scarce. Waiting for hours to take out the maximum amount of cash is common, although there is still never enough money. Small bills, no longer worth the paper they are printed on, have become playthings for children.

The minimum wage in Venezuela is roughly 40,000 Bolivars (approximately $2 a month). A pack of pads costs 15 times the minimum wage in Venezuela, making access to feminine hygiene products a near impossibility for many women.

Two pads (and a can of sardines)
There are regular, common pad brands, but then there are unknown brands containing dangerous and unregulated chemicals, which could cause infections or further gynaecological problems. Or there are empty shelves.

In a complex and ever-changing economic crisis, the shame around menstruation has remained a constant source of worry for Oskelly. As Oskelly explains, “the bachaqueros [black market distributors] grab a pack of pads, separate them and sell them to you in units, but in a package deal where they force you to buy something else, usually to get more money.”

“Instead of having a pack of eight or ten pads, you end up going home with a can of sardines and only two pads.”

Oskelly considers herself to be a “normal” teenager. She’s into fashion and make-up, attends school and plays kickball on the weekend with her friends. With the lack of accessible period products, she is often worried about playing sports while on her period.

“I’m afraid of staining my
white kickball uniform.”

Oskelly lives in a house with her mother, grandmother, two sisters and two younger brothers. She shares a small room with her grandmother.

“Sometimes I’m afraid of bleeding that much. It’s normal, but I’m also scared to have that [blood] inside of me because I don’t understand much of it.”

Oskelly also tells us that she hasn’t received much of an explanation around her period, with the subject also not being covered at school.

A helping hand
But a lack of access to affordable, healthy period products as well as contraception does not deter Oskelly from helping others. While her evenings are for education, her mornings are for helping. She volunteers in a soup kitchen run by her neighbour, Doris, who is responsible for providing 90 children a nutritious meal every day.

Children having children
Venezuela’s health services have been hit hard by the country’s economic crisis. Teenage girls are one of the worst affected groups due to a lack of access to menstrual products and contraception.

1 in 4 children are born to a mother under the age of 18. 

The lack of education about menstruation, contraception and young girls’ own bodies has contributed to Venezuela having one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies in the world.

When crisis becomes the norm
A crisis is usually understood as a temporary occurrence, something that will eventually come to an end. However, in 2020, Venezuela is still in a state of crisis. A cup of coffee now costs approximately 1,000,000 Bolivars, making it one of the poorest functioning economies in the world. Uncertainty and scarcity are still a daily part of Venezuelan life.

Oskelly and the coming generation of Venezuelans will grow up with a lack of gynecological health awareness and little chance of obtaining safe menstrual products. On top of this, they also face a higher risk of malnutrition, obesity and slow development. The Venezuelan crisis, it  appears, looks set to continue, with little end in sight.

Thank you
We would like to extend our gratitude to Beatriz Batita González for being our main contact on the ground, for connecting all the dots and contributing to the text together with Zairet González and Karissa López. Thank you to the entire team of Mi Convive and Alimenta la Solidaridad for giving us the opportunity to work with the people in Carapita, to Claudia Astor who connected us to Oskelly and Pablo Marmissolle and Yesmen Utera for helping us establish valuable contacts in Caracas, which allowed this story come to life. Lastly, thank you to Betty Gomez and Oskelly and her family for opening up their homes and sharing their stories with us.

Stay up to date and get more behind-the-scenes pictures, videos and stories.

Be part of the project
Taboo Global Periods is a community-driven project. If you are interested in telling your story, we want to hear from you:
Show us how periods impact you or those around you. 
Text, pictures and videos are welcome.

Coming of Age

in a Crisis 

In 2018 we met Oskelly Matute, a 17-year-old girl growing up in a crippling economic, social and political crisis; one that has entrapped Venezuela in poverty, corruption and crime for the past decade. She lives in Carapita, a favela in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, where just twenty minutes away from parliament, women and girls use scraps of old cloth to manage their periods.

Due to sky-rocketing inflation, prices rise rapidly and without warning, leaving most citizens struggling to pay for basic goods. Inflation affects Venezuelan women disproportionately as they must stretch their budgets to purchase sanitary pads and tampons, and if they can find any, soaps, shampoos and any other products that allow for basic hygiene.

Impoverished millionaires
Cash in sufficient amounts is scarce.
Waiting for hours to take out the maximum amount of cash is common, although there is still never enough money. Small bills, no longer worth the paper they are printed on, have become playthings for children.


The minimum wage in Venezuela is roughly 40,000 Bolivars (approximately 2 USD a month). A pack of pads costs 15 times the minimum wage in Venezuela, making access to feminine hygiene products a near impossibility for many women.

Two pads (and a can of sardines)
There are regular, common pad brands, but then there are unknown brands containing dangerous and unregulated chemicals, which could cause infections or further gynecological problems. Or there are empty shelves.

In a complex and ever-changing economic crisis, the shame around menstruation has remained a constant source of worry for Oskelly. As Oskelly explains, “the bachaqueros [black market distributors] grab a pack of pads, separate them and sell them to you in units, but in a package deal where they force you to buy something else, usually to get more money.”

caracas_964

“Instead of having a pack of eight or ten pads, you end up going home with a can of sardines and only two pads.”

“I’m afraid of staining my
white kickball uniform.”

Oskelly considers herself to be a “normal” teenager. She’s into fashion and make-up, attends school and plays kickball on the weekend with her friends. With the lack of accessible period products, she is often worried about playing sports while on her period.

Oskelly lives in a house with her mother, grandmother, two sisters and two younger brothers. She shares a small room with her grandmother.

“Sometimes I’m afraid of
bleeding that much. It’s normal,
but I’m also scared to have that [blood] inside of me because I don’t understand much of it.”

Oskelly also tells us that she hasn’t received much of an explanation around her period, with the subject not being covered at school.

A helping hand
But a lack of access to affordable, healthy period products as well as contraception does not deter Oskelly from helping others. While her evenings are for education, her mornings are for helping. She volunteers in a soup kitchen run by her neighbour, Doris, who is responsible for providing 90 children a nutritious meal every day.

Children having children
Venezuela’s health services have been hit hard by
the country’s economic crisis. Teenage girls are one of
the worst affected groups due to a lack of access to
menstrual products and contraception.

1 in 4 children are born to a
mother under the age of 18. 

The lack of education about menstruation, contraception and young girls’ own bodies has contributed to Venezuela having one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies in the world.

When crisis becomes the norm
A crisis is usually understood as a temporary occurrence, something that will eventually come to an end. However, in 2020, Venezuela is still in a state of crisis. A cup of coffee now costs approximately 1,000,000 Bolivars, making it one of the poorest functioning economies in the world. Uncertainty and scarcity are still a daily part of Venezuelan life.

Oskelly and the coming generation of Venezuelans will grow up with a lack of gynecological health awareness and little chance of obtaining safe menstrual products. On top of this, they also face a higher risk of malnutrition, obesity and slow development. The Venezuelan crisis, it appears, looks set to continue, with little end in sight.

Thank you
We would like to extend our gratitude to Beatriz Batita González for being our main contact on the ground, for connecting all the dots and contributing to the text together with Zairet González and Karissa López. Thank you to the entire team of Mi Convive and Alimenta la Solidaridad for giving us the opportunity to work with the people in Carapita, to Claudia Astor who connected us to Oskelly and Pablo Marmissolle and Yesmen Utera for helping us establish valuable contacts in Caracas, which allowed this story come to life. Lastly, thank you to Betty Gomez and Oskelly and her family for opening up their homes and sharing their stories with us.

Stay up to date and get more behind-the-scenes pictures, videos and stories.

Be part of the project
Taboo Global Periods is a community-driven project. If you are interested in telling your story, we want to hear from you: show us how periods impact you or those around you.

Text, pictures and videos are welcome.

TABOO
Global Periods.

TABOO – Global Periods is an ongoing project that uncovers the implications of menstruation in the lives of teenagers around the globe.

Menstruation affects half the world’s population, but not in the same ways. From feeling embarrassed or not being able to afford period products to being restricted by religious and social rules.

The impact of any taboo is difficult to understand when viewed from the outside. That is why, this project’s purpose is to explore factors such as economics, power relations, and gender discrimination, that are linked to menstrual taboos and traditions in a wide variety of settings – from the jungles of the Amazon, rural Africa, to central London, and beyond.

The project is initiated by OrganiCup and photographer
Nikolaj Møller.

Design by Spine Studio
Text by Rasmus Folehave, Ida Gjørup, Madalena Limao, Sophie Standen

TABOO – Global Periods is an ongoing project that uncovers the implications of menstruation in the lives of teenagers around 
the globe.

Menstruation affects half the world’s population, but not in the same ways. From feeling embarrassed or not being able to afford period products to being restricted by religious and social rules.

The impact of any taboo is difficult to understand when viewed from the outside. That is why, this project’s purpose is to explore factors such as economics, power relations, and gender discrimination, that are linked to menstrual taboos and traditions in a wide variety of settings – from the jungles of the Amazon, rural Africa, to central London, and beyond.

The project is initiated by OrganiCup and photographer
Nikolaj Møller.

Design by Spine Studio
Text by Rasmus Folehave, Ida Gjørup, Madalena Limao, Sophie Standen