[Image description: a white sanitary pad and two white tampons with light blue strings on a long, wooden rectangular plate. The plate is against a bright white surface.]

After many publishers emailing me to say that they cannot offer a placement due to the pandemic, I finally did get a placement right here at Edinburgh Napier. The university’s Bleedin’ Saor collective was advertising to recruit two Publishing students for their education booklet project. The booklet will accompany their upcoming documentary Bleeding Free, which looks at the plight of period poverty both in Scotland and Uganda. An exciting documentary, it highlights the dangers of stigma surrounding periods and the lack of education. In the UK, demand for period products has skyrocketed due to the pandemic and lockdown restrictions. In Africa, approximately one in ten girls cannot attend school because of their period. Through the collective, I have learnt so much about the bleak reality of period poverty and its prevalence around the world.

Founded at Edinburgh Napier University, the Bleedin’ Saor Collective is led by students and staff. Their mission is to fight period poverty and confront the stigma surrounding the natural bodily process of menstruation. After personally seeing the collective’s amazing work such as the Bloody Big Brunch, their partnership with Hey Girls, and their trip to Uganda, I am overjoyed to help the collective in a small way with my classmate Nina. We are excited to make a lot of decisions about the booklet including its content, design, writing, and structure. Initially, it was a daunting project for me as I didn’t think I would be able to produce an educational booklet as a pair. However, after a few double-page spreads and many drawings of tampons and moon cups, we have already completed three-quarters of our first draft. 

Working alongside Nina is reassuring for me as we meet weekly to confer with each other about the content and make decisions about the design and layout. Recently, we have been trialling different types of paper to see which type would suit the booklet. Copywriting is also an interesting challenge. I’m wired to write in a formal and academic writing style because four years of studying literature will do that to you, so communicating complex information about menstruation to 12-14-year-old readers requires relaxed and accessible but informative language. This involves rewriting sentences to make sure I hit the right tone. Making a short educational booklet for schools involves a lot of work such as conducting thorough research. My responsibilities include researching the menstrual cycle and the mental and physical side effects of periods. Fact-checking this information can’t be overseen. The last thing I want is students reading inaccurate information about a topic that is already not discussed enough in schools.

I’m really enjoying the cross-collaborative efforts across the different teams in the lead up to the documentary’s premier on the 20th of May. I recently helped the marketing team with compiling research about period poverty around the world. On the more optimistic side, we researched countries that are beginning to follow Scotland’s pioneering step of making period products completely free for everyone.

Our placement supervisor Kirsten states that the booklet is a vital accompaniment for the documentary as it draws on the main topics of menstrual education and fighting stigma in a compact information pack. As she mentioned in a recent meeting with us, the purpose of the documentary and its booklet is to “change the culture and change the conversation surrounding periods”. Learning more about period poverty has been an eye-opening experience for me. Something as seemingly minor as getting your period can greatly affect someone’s life simply because they do not have the necessary sanitary products to aid them. This prevents them from carrying out normal activities such as going to school. I would not have been confident in my abilities for this placement had it not been for the invaluable skills I have acquired on this course so far. Although the placement is not organised as a typical publisher, I still found myself using most of my skills for this placement, which proved to me what I always knew to be true – the knowledge and skills one picks up from their Publishing studies are so important. Organisations need publishers to organise and create digital and physical material.