A mission trip to Delhi with me and HRH The Crown Princess of Norway to PSI India's reproductive health clinic. Learning about the barriers to medically accurate health information and products.
A letter from Kate Roberts:
I am a menopausal woman in my 50s, and like many aspects of womanhood, that can be isolating and hard to talk about. The stigma of aging, fertility and menopause is alive and well in 2023. As a result, it is surprisingly difficult to get the real scoop on what to expect and how to thrive through those stages - even as an educated woman living in the United States amidst plenty. Resources have not spared me from facing body shame: mental illness consumed my family, I suffered from a debilitating eating disorder, and my perfect and beautiful daughter (aged 12!) has asked for a nose job. Enough! We must work harder to eliminate shame and stigma associated to our bodies by providing children with accurate, judgment-free information and resources from an early age and by empowering them to advocate for change.
I am proud to announce the creation of BodyNEXT, a groundbreaking new global body positivity and education campaign that will feature real people, medical professionals, and celebrities tackling stigmatized aspects of mental, physical, and sexual health. BodyNEXT was designed to help people of all genders understand and value their bodies (and others’ bodies!) from before puberty through all stages of life. In the United States, most people are taught some basic elements of “sex education” that is mostly about where babies come from with a fear-based, moralistic emphasis on avoiding pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. This approach does nothing to tackle outdated stigma and often leaves out what children really need to know to protect their bodies and thrive. Meanwhile, photo-shopped social media has created new and impossible standards that are further corroding self-image and mental health, particularly for girls.
In less developed countries, health educators often face even greater hurdles, including restrictive cultural or religious mores and limits on the type of information, products and services available to younger adolescents, especially girls. This means many children may not have access to accurate basic health and sexual wellness terminology and basic information they need until too late. They are, however, almost certainly guaranteed access to misinformation and body shame thanks to the widespread availability of the internet and social media - and porn - even in the poorest pockets of the world.
Enter BodyNEXT, a campaign to empower every generation to tell us about their bodies and needs, and what they are doing to banish stigma. BodyNEXT is centered on inclusivity, diversity of experience, and raw, vulnerable, authentic, and inspiring conversations. This campaign, developed by The Body Agency Collective, a nonprofit committed to advancing gender health care equity and serving marginalized women and girls around the world, will debut at the Women Deliver 2023 conference in Rwanda later this year. It is currently being pilot tested by our partner, PSI India. PSI India’s hugely successful boots-on-the-ground approach with partners at all levels of the community will bring critical health and sexual wellness information, products and services to girls and boys aged 10 and up for the first time. Prior to BodyNEXT, these sometimes lifesaving resources were only available to adolescents over the age of 14.
With support from our partnership events such as BodyNEXT Yoga by Equinox, The Body Agency Collective is tailoring the BodyNEXT campaign for adoption in other countries, including the United States and others in Africa and South America. We partner with local proven gold standard NGOs, universities such as the George Washington University, foundations, philanthropists and institutions to help fill critical gaps in providing products, services and education in culturally appropriate ways to improve understanding and, critically, change behavior.
As part of BodyNEXT, the Body Agency Collective will provide its signature kits to assist people in need wherever they are in their journey, from our first period kit through menopause, including options for those in special need such as cancer care or our Dignity Kit for girls and women in crisis regions. These kits are packed with important and innovative, sustainable products such as the menstrual cup, period panties, and the Vulva Puppet – an educational tool to teach people of all ages about genders about female anatomy in a fun and shame-free way.
It is our time now - for us and our children. Say farewell to shame and embrace your body – your powerhouse.