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All aboard: Touring the UK to break the taboo of periods

Ruth Arnold

Ruth Arnold is one of 12 facilitators who work on board one of the two award-winning ‘betty buses’ that are visiting schools across the UK teaching children about periods and encouraging open and honest conversations.

Born in Crouch End, Ruth is a trained facilitator on the betty bus that is breaking down the ‘culture of shame’ around menstruation which develops from an early age, and empowering young female students to feel more confident and prepared for their periods. Alongside facilitating, Ruth is also an actress with her acting career taking her from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to EastEnders.

The betty buses were launched earlier this year and support and enhance the PSHE accredited betty for schools programme. They are a fun alternative to the traditional classroom and designed to help teach young women about periods in a more open and engaging way. During the bus visits girls take part in interactive activities in the one-hour sessions with trained facilitators, like Ruth, who help girls explore how periods can affect them both physically and emotionally, and encourage them to ask questions that they may not feel comfortable raising in the classroom. In co-ed schools, boys take part in separate sessions on puberty, focusing on their understanding and attitude towards this perfectly natural time of month.

Ruth Arnold says: The bus takes the girls away from the classroom. They meet different adults who talk to them immediately in a positive way about their bodies and periods. Therefore, from the start, a relationship is set up that is neither parent nor teacher. The environment is introduced as a place where you can shout ‘vagina’ and no one is going to make fun of you or tell you off. We make their bodies and periods a normal part of life. One to be celebrated. One that makes them special. One that bonds all the females they know together.

“We get them to understand that there’s no need to be afraid of what’s happening to their bodies and that there is a wonderful network of people they can have honest conversations with if they still have concerns. We see girls enter the bus in trepidation, but 45 minutes later, confidently telling the rest of the group that they’ve started their periods. They’re looked at with understanding and interest, rather than fear or ridicule, by their peers. So many teachers have said to us, “if only we had this when I was growing up”.

The bus has seen great feedback from students and teachers with research showing that 94% of girls and boys who have received the bus visits find them useful and 98% of teachers think the bus is a fun and interactive experience for the kids.

As part of its nationwide tour the bus will be visiting ten schools in London between 4th December to 15th December, stopping off at Leyton, Newham, Bromley – by Bow, Sydenham, Kingsbury, Hackney, Holloway, Crouch End, Southgate and Muswell Hill.