Wondering why I’m Mrs Proud of Proudsville? Well, only eight months after we started, Pausitivity was in Parliament to launch the #KnowYourMenopause poster to MPs.
Yup, three women with no funding and who had never met going to Westminster to share our menopause story with some of the most powerful people in the country – never let anyone say passion and determination aren’t enough.
Whooping over, I promise.
It began when Carolyn Harris MP invited us to the Houses of Parliament to chat about the campaign.
Well, that’s what I thought was the aim and I went piled with notes and info and statistics, shaking as I checked in to Portcullis House, nervous and not wanting to let down my Pausitivity colleagues, Clare Shepherd and Karen Kenning.
The powerhouse that is Carolyn Harris!
Carolyn’s assistant Alexandra came to meet me and then took me deep into the Houses of Parliament – literally. An underground tunnel runs beneath the road from Portcullis House to the Palace of Westminster (if you’ve seen documentaries about parliament, it’s here the MPs go running when division bells are sounded and they have to vote).
It’s like stepping back in time as suddenly you’re surrounded by thick old stone, with statues of lions and unicorns flanking small doorways and windy staircases and corridors. I felt as if I was in Hogwarts
Loving history, I was desperate to touch the walls and feel their age – the times they have seen.
I entered Carolyn’s office ready to explain why she should support us. Within seconds, I realised this amazing whirlwind had gone past that and was talking instead of why, was talking about how she could do this – questions to ministers (especially about the HRT shortages), meetings, possible collaborations and then an invite to hold a drop-in so we could get more MPs aware of us.
I left buzzing, collapsing onto a nearby wall to WhatsApp Karen and Clare and tell them the amazing news.
Our wonderful supporters
We asked Unison Cymru Wales if they would sponsor some leaflets and a couple of giant posters for us, keeping numbers low so the price would be as cheap as possible. But they have been incredible supporters and didn’t hesitate to say yes.
Their regional secretary Tanya Palmer and Unison vice president Sian Stockholm also came to the event to show their support, which was brilliant. Our wonderful poster designer Allyson Shields was on board, together with Chief Inspector Helen Smith.
I asked some famous faces to join us to share their menopause story, too. Singer and actress Michelle Heaton has worked with Fifty One Apparel and been so honest and open about her bad time following her hysterectomy – plus she’s a fellow Geordie! She’s been quite poorly recently, but she said yes straight away. Northern women, for you…
It was also wonderful how quickly we got “would love to” RSVPs from chat-show host Trisha Goddard and best-selling author (and my editor-in-chief at Hello!) Rosie Nixon, too. Trisha has such a positive attitude to menopause that is so refreshing, while Rosie broke boundaries with a piece on menopause in Hello! last summer, featuring several celebrities talking about their experiences, good and bad.
I don’t like mixing the campaign with work – they’re two separate things. But Rosie went beyond my wildest dreams when I told her about parliament.
“Let’s get a photographer there and we’ll feature it in the magazine, too,” she said. “It’s a brilliant campaign and I’d love to help.”
Meeting up for the first time
Parliament was also momentous for one more reason: it was the first time me, Karen and Clare would meet.
All of which should have been exciting but hand on heart, I was so stressed. There were so many elements to juggle and think about. (Guest timings and expectations. Photographer timing and briefing him on what to do. Would people expect refreshments? What if no MP came? What if too many came? What if my Pausitivity Pals didn’t like me? What if it was all a disaster?) and I’d been six weeks without HRT due to the HRT shortages and a troublesome GP.
I also had the prospect of me – 5ft on a good day – carrying four 3ft Correx posters, one that was 4.5ft tall plus hundreds of leaflets through Canterbury and then London. (Not one of my best plans.)
Honestly, to all the campaigners in the past who have gone through this: huge respect. It was one of the most nerve-wracking things I’ve ever done and gave me several sleepless nights.
Women supporting women
A boost came from a most unexpected quarter. We’d arranged to meet in a nearby bar and were just about to head off when campaigners from Waspi (Women Against State Pension Inequality) came in fresh from meeting MPs themselves.
They were brilliant: so full of passion and enthusiasm. We chatted for a few minutes and they really lifted my spirits. Thank you all.
It soon became apparent that I needn’t have worried about MPs not turning up. They were there before we were ready, with an amazing show of support for our Elgin girl Karen from her local MPs Drew Hendry, Douglas Ross and Dave Duggan (a huge thank you from my in-laws who have special links to Moray, too) as well as a personal hero of mine Joanna Cherry.
And Michelle, Trisha and Rosie were absolute stars, sharing their stories and happily posting for posterselfies. I couldn’t have wished for nicer people to come and they have my thanks forever.
It was also fabulous to meet my own MP Rosie Duffield, who had some great plans about how we could work together to get posters around Kent, and Chi Onwurah, one of the MPs for my “forever home” Newcastle. The pride I felt when I was able to give her an Urdu poster to share with the West End community centres in Newcastle was incredible. (Thank you, Dr Nighat Arif and Ally, for all your hard work on that.)
We talked about many aspects of menopause to show why we need the posters in GP offices and every MP agreed with us. Those I talked to surprised that there was nothing already there, which is half the problem. People think there is loads of info around because everyone knows women go through menopause when they get to “a certain age”. However, they’re not aware of what menopause truly means, nor that it can hit younger women and last for so long.
We also talked about HRT shortages. To me, they’re part and parcel of this lack of awareness and the perfect example of why we need posters. If people think menopause is only hot flushes, irregular periods and a little grumpiness thrown in, then they don’t understand the very real impact it can have: the depression, suicidal thoughts, physical pain… As a result, they don’t understand how much some women need HRT. (Which isn’t to say HRT is the only answer. Many women get by perfectly well without it or use alternatives. But for some, it is all that helps.)
The hour went by far too quickly, but it was wonderful to get messages of support from MPs including Jo Stevens, Nickie Aitken, Alex Davies-Jones and even Sir Iain Duncan Smith! It was exhausting – physically and mentally.
We started Pausitivity with one aim and that was what going to parliament was all about. So I’m asking all the MPs now what we asked them then: please help us get #KnowYourMenopause posters into GP offices.
And I’m asking you, dear reader, to lobby your MP and ask them to support us, too.
Every day we get messages about how the poster has helped start conversations and given women the information they need to talk to their GP. Every day we get messages saying how important this is.
We’ve started something. Together, we can finish it.
Download your #KnowYourMenopause poster from Pausitivity.co.uk and join us with a posterselfie to help the women in your life. We’re on Twitter at @pausitivity2 and Facebook at #Pausitivity.