Meet the Minister of Menstruation: Candice Chirwa

Candice Chirwa, has become the voice of change in lifting the burden of menstruation for many girls in several South Africa communities. Known to many as the “Minister of Menstruation”, we caught up with her to find out more about her work as a social entrepreneur.

Purpose Pioneers: Tell us about yourself and what you do.

Candice Chirwa: I am Candice Chirwa and I’m 24 years old. I am a Menstruation activist (aka Minister of Menstruation), author, academic and Founder and Director of my NGO called Qrate.

PP: What led you to starting Qrate and choosing menstrual education as the focal point?

CC: While I was doing my Masters research, I found that a lot of young menstruators, when they first started menstruating, felt like they were going to die due to lack of education. To which Qrate was born and focused on enhancing the critical-thinking skills through the promotion of ‘Eduliftment’ – a tool to help young people apply critical-thinking skills in order to understand their circumstances and explore options open to them through educational content. I then took my love for Dramatic Arts and my academic research, and created these fun and dynamic menstruation workshops for the youth.

What is your definition of purpose?

CC: My definition of purpose is the “why” behind everything that you do. Our why is the purpose, the cause, or the belief that drives people’s passion in life. When we know the why to our life, then the path is very clear and it is very empowering. If you can’t figure out your purpose, then you must figure out your passion. Your passion will eventually lead you to your purpose. Looking at my own purpose, it is built on the foundation of wanting to educate and empower those around me. To utilise what I know and empower young girls so that gender inequality can be dismantled in hopes of building a better society for girls and women to live in.

PP: Who motivates you? And why?

CC: Eartha Kitt. When you read and learn about her wisdom, you cannot stop and be astounded at how she flourished through her career at such a young age when the world looked down at black women. She stood in her own truth and always spoke out against instances of injustice, which is a subject closely related to the work that I do.

PP: Your biggest achievement as an activist?

CC: Qrate won the Best Youth NGO award for 2019 at the Youth Achievers Award but the biggest achievement through the Menstruation Workshops is witnessing the confidence that young girls leave the workshops with after learning about Menstruation.

PP: What challenges have you faced amidst the current global pandemic as an NGO?

CC: Currently, the global pandemic is having an impact on the operational side of the organisation. There isn’t anything we can do until it is safe for social gatherings to happen. We are, however, trying to find a way to create content that is accessible for all.

PP: How are you helping the next generation be more aware of menstrual related issues?

CC: There’s a lot of power in empowering young people about their bodies. Many feel embarrassed to talk about puberty, sex and periods. By hosting these workshops, we create a safe space for young people to learn about periods but most importantly own their bodies. I’ve also realised that a lot of young adults still have a lot of questions and concerns about menstrual health. I create Menstruation Threads on Twitter as a way for people to engage on the topic. My recent collaboration with Lil Lets South Africa, through a platform called Lil-Lets Talk has enabled people to ask questions about periods and help normalise menstruation.

PP: Where do you foresee your work as an activist going in the future?

CC: I want to leave a legacy of having a generation of young people who do not feel afraid to speak openly about puberty, sex and menstruation. I want to leave a legacy behind where young people are able to make socially responsible choices for themselves because they are educated and uplifted.

For more information on these Menstrual Workshops or how you can get involved, follow Qrate on Twitter @Qrate_SA and Candice @Candice_Chirwa.

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