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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 29 August 2015
NEWS 2 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 29 AUGUST 2015 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Bleeding for a cause A new generation of feminists has emerged, proud of what it means to be a woman - blood and all ANASTASIA TSIRTSAKIS We all know women have a menstrual cycle, yet in the 21st century, periods continue to be a taboo, and for some, an almost cringe-worthy topic. Harvard MBA graduate, drummer of M.I.A and feminist Kiran Ghandi decided to challenge this notion this month when she decided to take part in a marathon to support breast cancer while on her period, and without any sanitary protection. The 26-year-old, who suffers painful periods, realised the first day of her period fell on the same day as her first marathon in London - an event she had trained for tirelessly. "I ran with blood dripping down my legs, for sisters who don't have access to tampons and sisters who, despite cramping and pain, hide it away and pretend like it doesn't exist," Ghandi explained, following her successful completion of the race. Although reactions have varied, with some cheering and many disgusted, Varvara Athanasiou-Ioannou, founder of the Food for Thought Greek Australian women's Network, says it is clear Ghandi, who has a background in women's studies, had a greater message in mind. "Periods are an essential monthly occurrence for wom- en to be healthy and fertile, and yet it is not openly discussed; it is still expected to be discreet, clean, unnoticed," Ms Athanasiou-Ioannou tells Neos Kosmos. "I recall my mum telling me that I could not go to church to take holy communion when I was menstruating, as I was not clean! It is important to discuss these issues, like we now discuss mental illness and sexual preference openly." Athanasiou-Ioannou, a lecturer at Swinburne University, says the lack of understanding is evident in the GST charged on sanitary products, which are classified as a 'luxury good', while sunscreen, nicotine patches, condoms and lubricant fall under the category of 'essential healthcare items'. The issue received media attention earlier this year, when Sydney University student Subeta Vimalarajah launched an online petition 'Stop taxing my period', which attracted over 37,000 signatures. When it comes to acts like Ghandi's, perceived by some as extreme, Ms AthanasiouIoannou is concerned they may distance people from feminism. "We need to define what feminism is, because some people blame feminism for the 'world's problems'. They Varvara Athanasiou-Ioannou, founder and chair of Food for Thought. PHOTO: FACEBOOK. equate feminism only with extreme acts like this, trying to denigrate the purpose of feminism, which is equality of opportunity and choice for both men and women," she says. "Unfortunately, feminism for many is a dirty word and I even hear many women distancing themselves from this concept." Although women in the western world are enjoying benefits that generations before could only dream of, she says looking at the statistics, we still "have a long way to go". "If we look at objective criteria, women still have the burden of raising the children and the house-keeping, as well as looking after their parents." Research by the World Economic Forum to assess the gender gap in 58 countries, concluded that, "even in light of heightened international awareness of gender issues, it is a disturbing reality that no country has yet managed to eliminate the gender gap". Countries that had made the most progress at narrowing the gap were in Scandinavia - Sweden was the stand-out Kiran Ghandi made a bold statement earlier this month, when she ran a marathon during her period without sanitary protection. PHOTO: NEWS INDIA TIMES. - followed by New Zealand, Canada, the UK and Germany. Australia was in 10th place. According to research conducted by the Australian Institute of Company Directors regarding the appointment of women to ASX 200 boards, the figures show Australia's position worsening. In July 2011, 68 women were appointed to ASX 200 boards, decreasing to 37 in 2013, while the figures in July this year stood at just 27. Athanasiou-Ioannou says the key to change is education, with a greater need for male role models champion- ing the feminist movement. "More education for both men and women is needed. Feminism starts at home, with each of us playing an important role, and then schools also play a big role in educating people about the importance of equity and diversity." Food for Thought is a not- for-profit Greek Australian Women's Network aiming to raise awareness about the barriers and enablers to women's issues, empowering women to succeed in their chosen spheres of life. For more information, visit www.fftn.org.au Australia asked to accept refugees flooding Greece Greek minister appeals to western countries to do their bit Greece's Alternate Minister for Immigration Policy, Tasia Christodoulopoulou, says the United States, Australia and other western countries should take some of the refugees that are flooding Greece and other Mediterranean countries. Mrs Christodoulopoulou says intervention by the west in African and Arab countries has created the massive exit of refugees and that the nations involved in the interventions have an obligation to assist. As the Union of Greek Municipalities (KEDE) called on the Greek government to take action to deal with an unprecedented wave of mass migration through Greece, Christodoulopoulou accused municipal and regional authorities of not doing their share. KEDE chief Giorgos Patoulis said the government had failed to present a compre- hensive plan for managing the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees, mainly from the Middle East, and warned that delays in implementing European Union measures may lead to hefty fines. "There is no magic wand that will create the infrastructure or make the migrants disappear," Christodoulopoulou told a meeting of KEDE on Wednesday. The minister added that with the exception of the municipalities of Athens and Lesvos, no other regional or municipal authorities have offered facilities for processing and housing arrivals. The outgoing minister de- fended the government's lack of progress, saying that she is expecting €30 million in EU funding to be released next week, which will go toward building reception centres on Kos, Leros and Lesvos. Her comments came after an earlier statement by European Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud, who said that the commission is waiting for Greece to establish an agency to manage the funds. Greece’s Alternate Minister for Immigration Policy, Tasia Christodoulopoulou.
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