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Image credit: Red is the New Green

Deane de Menezes: Beads of change

Deane de Menezes: Beads of change

Working towards a common future

Image above: Happy bracelet makers after the Beads of Change Menstrusession in the park

Deane de Menezes describes the power of connecting with other Queen's Young Leaders in this story of an afternoon in the park with friends, new and old.

What links a few plastic beads, an egg, Cambridge, the Solomon Islands and India together?

Absolutely nothing, one might think. And that would have been my answer as well a few months ago. 

Then, as part of the Queen's Young Leaders Award residential, I had a wonderful time meeting amazing young leaders, who were so much more than their prestigious titles and labels. Here was bunch of people just like me yet so different – driven to leave this world in a better place that they found it.

Connecting

One night, as I was sharing details about my work in menstrual hygiene and the various challenges we face here in India, Millicent Barty a fellow Queen's Young Leader from the Solomon Islands happened to mention her friend back home who was working towards the same cause.

She said that her friend was using a really innovative teaching method to reach out to communities. She insisted that we two must connect once we leave Cambridge.

Beads and a needle and thread

Image credit: Lisa Woakes on Unsplash

I was curious to learn more about this novel teaching method so, post the whirlwind that was the residential in London, this small conversation stayed with me.

On coming back to India, I connected with Millicent again and this is when things get interesting.

The same friend she told me about in Cambridge happened to be visiting India in less than a month! Millicent connected us over Whatsapp and we hit it off instantly. 

A common cause

It is so exciting to meet people working towards the same cause halfway across the globe. As we spoke about her brilliant technique of teaching the menstrual cycle via beads, I really wanted to bring that to India and share it here as well.

Menstruation is a normal body process which occurs to half our planet but across cultures and continents it is spoken about in whispers and often covered in a veil of shame. 

There is a deep stigma attached to this phenomenon, which is as commonplace as sweating. And it was eye-opening for me to find out that this was not only the case in my country. –  it was across our world.

My new friend and I planned to do something while she was in town. We wanted to do something meaningful together which would bring about some positive impact in our local community. 

Red is the New Green Menstrusession with Zillah Douglas

Red is the New Green Menstrusession with Zillah Douglas

Working together

My organisation, Red is the New Green, hosts an event called Menstrusession – a public event held in a park where anybody can come and talk about menstruation and share their ideas and views.  

We decided that she would be our guest speaker and would share her method for making "period bracelets" with us and all the attendees.

The beautiful day came and when we met, to my utter surprise and shock, my new friend was none other than Zillah Douglas, a fellow Queen's Young Leader!

I had no idea about this and what made this more serendipitous is that I had actually done Zillah’s challenge in Module 5, ‘The Island’, as part of my assignment. What a small small world we live in! It felt like I was meeting an old friend after ages!

The power of sharing ideas

Our session was amazing! Zillah showed us how to make a bracelet using different coloured beads signifying different parts of the menstrual cycle. She even explained the different bodily fluids and their meaning using innovative tools like toothpaste, eggs and face cream.

People on blanket on the grass watching Zillah Douglas make a bracelet

Making period bracelets in the park

I loved how this simple sharing of ideas transcended languages and our session attracted men and women who did not speak the language to come join us and make these bracelets!

I think this truly embodies what the Queen's Young Leaders Award is about – sharing simple ideas across the world to make our world a better place. Being part of this family is something I will cherish. I think it will only get stronger as we come together in larger ways and amplify what the Commonwealth stands for – our common future.

As I bid farewell to Zillah later that evening, I looked at the sea near our session and just thought how special a few beads, an egg and a passion to make a difference can be.

Flyer for Beads of Change Menstrusession in the park

"I loved how this simple sharing of ideas transcended languages and our session attracted men and women who did not speak the language to come join us and make these bracelets!"

Deane de Menezes