Supermodel Natalia Vodianova might be best known for her work on the catwalk, but she’s also a passionate advocate for human rights. She has now been named by the UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency, UNFPA as its latest Goodwill Ambassador.
Ms Vodianova’s aim in the role is to ‘culturally redefine menstruation’ as a normal bodily function. And she wants to remove the taboo that surrounds it within many cultures.
Why talk about periods?
In Western society, raising awareness of periods might seem unnecessary. That’s because on the whole we are already aware that they are a natural part of life. Most of us just accept that it happens, we have access to sanitary items and our life can continue as normal.
In many countries around the world, however, this simply is not the case. According to the UNFPA (officially known as the UN Population Fund), in some countries there are taboos surrounding the issue. This can leave women and girls very vulnerable and can even be life threatening. They can be excluded from public life and denied sanitation and basic health needs.
Making the change
It’s no simple matter to reverse centuries of tradition, as obvious as it may seem that those traditions are harmful to women.
In fact it could easily be argued that we still have a long way to go in this country. We may not be forced to remove ourselves from society when we are on our period. But there are instances of diagnoses being missed because women are reluctant to discuss menstruation.
So how does Ms Vodianova plan to address the issue? Well she’s already made a start. Over the past three years, she has teamed up with the UNFPA to chair a series of ‘Let’s Talk’ events. These aim to target policy makers as well as civil society and the private sector, worldwide. She wants to help tackle the shame and discrimination faced routinely by millions of women and girls around the world.
Why a supermodel?
UN goodwill ambassadors are often celebrities, as a recognisable face can garner more attention than an unknown. But Natalia Vodianova has a particular personal interest in human rights, and especially women’s rights.
Brought up in poverty in Russia by a single mother, Vodianova also helped care for her half sister, who has cerebral palsy and autism. This start in life has given her a unique insight into the struggles faced by women in poverty. She is now keen to use some of her fame and fortune to help make life a little bit easier for others.
Speaking about her appointment, Vodianova has said:
“As UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador, I will stand up for women and girls everywhere. I won’t stop speaking up about what I know is right until we are able to raise the standard for women’s health around the world.”