Menstruation. True, not something you automatically consider when you think of Mongolia. And you may wonder where this blog post is going.
MMiEEP (Managing Menstruation in Extreme Environments Project) is a long-term UK based research project created by the Women’s Adventure Expo, ooking to identify and explore issues around menstruation in extreme or challenging environments. The project looks to produce not only practical information for women but also guidance for practitioners which I think is excellent for any tourism company that works in the adventure market with female guests.
As the female founder of a social enterprise that employs only female trip assistants and with a large percentage of our guests being women, I should have a vested interest in this project.
However, I know how my monthly menstruation impacts me but (although it shames me to say it) I never considered it from the aspect of my female team. I also never even considered adding a section providing information on handling menstruation in Mongolia to our company Pre-Departure Guidelines. Not just about what products are available but also the practicalities of discarding sanitary waste and how to keep oneself clean when there is limited access to regular showers. This section has now been added!
In Mongolia, I employ eight male drivers. And when I have personally worked alongside them, I have been pleasantly surprised by their attitude of the men. Not that it is discussed but there’s no embarrassment. Maybe it is because (traditionally) Mongolians live together as an extended family (in a ger) and so this lack of privacy leads to more openness. However, as far as I am aware, there is no open conversation about menstruation in Mongolian culture.
MMiEEP is looking at many different factors around menstruation including environment, age, health status, contraception status, cultural background, and practicalities in the field. Three of those leap out at me – environment, cultural background and practicalities. My female trip assistants run our adventure and cultural experiences frequently in remote areas of Mongolia removed from any facilities – no toilets, no waste disposal, no showers. On top of that, often accommodation is shared between the EL team of male driver and trip assistant. And yet, I have never discussed with ‘my girls’ about if they need help, support or advice for handling their period when they are on tour for EL.
Ultimately, the aim of MMiEEP is to encourage solidarity between women. Menstruation is a globally shared experience among women, but often not addressed in this context. It is definitely time that I also jump onboard and consider it from the perspective of my female team and guests. Watch this space for updates.