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Women at Work

As another International Women’s Day passes, I am reminded of the sheer tenacity, strength and determination of the women I know. 

From girls struggling with puberty, changes and confusing choices, to women working through childbearing and rearing, fertility issues and menstruation, to those facing menopause, complications and hormonal flux: We persist! 

cate woman at work

There is very little to show outwardly what we are handling. We continue to smile, support, nurture and guide. We efficiently face each day determined to do our best. 
Every so often we catch the eye of a fellow female. There we see an acknowledgement. They have perhaps noted the break out acne on our jawline or the fatigue in our face. They recognise the tell tale signs. But mostly it goes unnoticed. 

We quell tears, fight exhaustion, swap tampons, fan flushed faces and continue as “normal”. 
Half the blooming population!! Dancing this crazy cha-cha of subterfuge! 

When teaching in Malawi I once discovered a market stall selling coloured beaded chains. They were beautiful but far too long to be necklaces. I asked the women making them what they were for. 
To wear around your waist: gold for wedding, white for virgin, red for….. they giggled- an outward symbol for all to see. 
I was unsure how this made me feel. It was, undoubtedly, a signal to husbands that conjugal rights were not available but it also empowered women to communicate. To share solidarity. 
There is so much unspoken about women’s health, especially in the workplace. 

Education is about conquering new horizons. Embarking upon new territory. Enlightening the Unenlightened. Should we not then be the first to speak? 

In a U.K. school I once worked in, they separated boys from girls for “The Talk”. Girls were told not to share what was discussed in their session. 
The boys entered my room early. Clearly baffled and uncomfortable. 
“The girls are learning about periods and stuff”…. They shuffled their feet and looked at the floor. I asked what their talk had been about
“We need to be kind to them because they get hormonal”
I reached for my handbag. Making eye contact with each reluctant teenage boy, I pulled out sanitary towels and tampons. 
“Did they show you these?” Shaking of heads. 
The next 20mins were spent explaining sanitary products and menstruation to teenage boys who may one day go on to be husbands, fathers, boyfriends or even educators themselves. 

It is not taboo to bleed. It is not dirty or shameful. It is not weak to have hot flushes or to feel the impact of hormonal change. It is HUMAN. To deny it, censor it or suppress education about it is wrong. The message it sends is dangerous. 

The human condition is complex, but some things are simple. The changes women go through have always been thus. We really should be able to talk about such things without squeamishness or nerves. 

Women are INCREDIBLE. They endure and prosper, thrive and evolve. 

Let’s lead the way in education. Let’s talk openly. Let’s discuss. LET US CELEBRATE everything it means to be a wonderful warrior woman!

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The author

Cate has been a teacher for 20 years. She has worked internationally and across all key stages in the UK. Her secondary specialism is Performing Arts with a keen interest in PSHE/RSE. Cate is recently married with two cats who keep her busy and an allotment that requires more time than she can give it!

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