What. A. Bloody Year.
BGP's CEO and founder, Gabby Edlin, reflects on 2020
When I sat at my desk in March, as the realisation dawned on me that yes in fact lockdown was about to happen, I rewrote our plans for the year on a scrap of paper, no idea of the changes that would come. On that piece of paper I wrote two things, underneath the underlined title “Priorities”:
Get pads to people who need them
Ensure BGP staff are safe and happy
Two very simple but very big priorities, and a whole load of changes with that. We closed the office, shut our storage unit, cancelled volunteer shifts and took a huge breath, ready to step into the unknown. I won’t lie to you, I was bloody terrified. How the hell do you run an organisation which ultimately relies on people being together - talking, planning, sorting pads, running education programmes, without actually seeing each other? And how on earth do you keep asking people to give you money when they have no idea themselves whether they’ll be employed tomorrow?
Well, thanks to you being bloody brilliant, we are very grateful that we haven’t had to worry too much about the latter. Quite simply, BGP supporters are the very best in the world. You kept on giving, and you shared our cause with your friends and family so they’d give too. You planned marathons from home and you set up birthday fundraisers. You sponsored periods and bought loads of #FlowHoHo for Christmas. Thanks to you, we’ve been able to expand our delivery service by up to six times the amount we were giving before. And we continued to do this without exploiting the very people we were giving to. We shared no sad photos, made no one feel that they had to share their trauma in a transactional way. We refused to emotionally manipulate anyone into giving us money they didn’t have. Thank you Rachel and Becky, our extraordinarily brilliant comms team.
As you all know, life is terrible enough for many of the people we work with, and it’s no surprise that the pandemic exacerbated the issues that many asylum-seekers face, through no fault of their own. It was hugely important to us that we continued a reliable and sustainable flow of products to the people we work with, to ensure that they never had to worry about a bad period. Thanks to the amazing work of our ops team, Alix and Nikki, our delivery service is even more efficient and reliable than before and we can reach people all over the UK, even if they’re unable to leave their homes to access food banks and drop-in centres. Our work was even covered by Diane Taylor in the Guardian, alerting even more people to the issues the people we work with face.
As well as meeting the immediate need for period products, we have stepped up our work on solving the big picture issue - that menstrual supplies should be free for everyone who needs them. Buoyed by amazing news last month, when MSP Monica Lennon and her team finally achieved their aim of making period products free in Scotland, we believe more than ever that achieving our mission is possible. Nearly 30,000 of you evidently agree, as our petition for the rest of the UK to follow Scotland’s lead garnered an incredible amount of support. Next year will see even more campaigning to make period products free to people who need them (as, news flash, we don’t really want to have to exist a moment longer than we bloody have to).
Over in our Bloody Good Education programme, Hannah weathered the dual storms of closing in-person centres and digital exclusion - we’ve managed to get our sessions covering “everything in the underwear” to dozens of asylum-seeking and refugee women and people who menstruate, all experly monitored by Elhum.
Our collaboration with Decolonising Contraception, Decolonising Menstruation (funded by The Body Shop) has got into its stride, as programme manager Diana helps participants grapple with the question “How did the sacred become dirty?” Menstrual cup fans will be pleased to know we’ve given out more reusable products than ever before, thanks to the popularity of our “Take What You Need” scheme, where centres and individuals can visit our storage in Alexandra Palace and procure a whole range of menstrual products for free.Thanks to a huge donation of period pants from Modibodi, the more expensive reusable items are now available to all.
As we head into 2021, we’ll be dropping some exciting research from our Employers programme, headed up Joe and supported by a range of bloody heroes, including our first ever intern, Anushree.
We’ve welcomed new team members this year, including the wonderful Seyi who heads up our development programme for BPOC members of staff. Keep an eye out for our anti-racism strategy in 2021, as we continue the work we started with the great Nova Reid in 2019, to ensure that BGP continues to resist the ingrained racist culture of the charity industry, as described in the work of the mighty Charity So White. We’re also lucky enough to have the lovely Dora who fields all your questions and requests at [email protected], and marvellous Michelle, who’s already secured us some excellent and much needed funds for next year, all bookkept by super Shruti.
So how the hell do you run an organisation in lockdown times? Well it’s hard. It’s bloody
bloody hard, but when you have the kind of team like I’ve described above, and the kind of volunteers who, even though they can’t woman stalls at events or log pads in the warehouse, still make it a point to check in to see how they can help, from writing content, to taking photos to crunching data to penning postcards, you know it’ll be OK. There are too many to name (what a problem to have!), but know that I am so grateful to each and every one of you, and can’t wait to give you a sanitised hug as soon as we’re allowed to. Thank you to our ambassadors, Cariad, Kenny, Emma, Alix and Jess, with special mention for Jen, who battled Zoom to present both the stormingly brilliant Bloody Funny and the most glorious Festive Period party ever livestreamed, replete with relevant comedy head wear both times - resplendent in glittery Christmas tree hats and tampon crowns, and giving us all a (much-needed) bloody good laugh.
One more shout out for the BGP team for turning up to our staff meetings and answering questions like “If you were a colour what would you be”, and indulging my latent hippy side by sharing their “rose and thorn” at the end of each Zoom: Rachel, Alix, Nikki, Hannah, Seyi, Diana and Joe - I am so lucky to call you my colleagues. And finally, to the BGP trustees, who are so much more than trustees. They keep me sane, keep me grounded, pump me up and most importantly truly believe not only in the power of BGP, but in me and my potential, and you can’t ask for more than that. Sue, Ruby, Fi and Amber (you are missed!) - thank you.
Thank you to our most generous funders, including those who wish to remain anonymous:
Prue Norton and MSN Fund
The Smallwood Trust
National Lottery Community Fund
British Medical Association
Garfield Weston Foundation
Haringey Giving Fund
Islington Local Initiatives Fund
Charles S French Charitable Trust
London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham
And, quite simply, to all of you who’ve helped us navigate this craziest of years. We bloody love you.