Interview: Bringing a Decolonized Approach to Menstrual Health

An interview between Minhtam Tran and Madeleine Shaw about honest intentions, open conversations and making space for perspectives worth sharing.

Minhtam Tran, former Project Lead for Decolonizing Menstrual Health

Many of the individuals we interviewed said ‘just be honest about what your intentions are’ and why you’re asking us and then, making space for us to continue to do this work outside of this project. The major point is to keep having these conversations and building relationships openly and honestly.

Generally, I feel like I learned so much and I walked away from every interview feeling really energized and really excited by the work they were doing, just to continue supporting them and listening to badass women! But in general I think a big difference between our experience was the timing in when we interviewed.

Madeleine Shaw, Co-Founder of Aisle

We don’t need to assume that someone has a title of authority within the specific context of menstrual health to have a perspective worth hearing.

Minhtam: In terms of the leadership piece, it felt like a lot of the time the individuals I spoke to were surprised that we wanted to speak to them, and that they weren’t sure if they had the expertise to talk about decolonizing menstrual health, or about intersectionality in general.

I did notice a profound common reverence for the connection with natural cycles and ritual and ceremony and intergenerational learning that I think is something that we can learn a lot from in the broader menstrual health space.

The interviews showed me that in mainstream culture we’ve lost sight of the magic and the mystery of our cycles and the spiritual component in honoring that. In our ‘hustle’ culture, we’re often like “just pop in a menstrual cup and just keep going with your life”, which is obviously necessary sometimes, however we don’t realize that this reflects a colonized mindset and it comes at an energetic cost. The Indigenous wisdom that was shared with me is that menstruation is a time for rest, self-reflection and self-care. I thought that was really valuable.

Moon phases, from Whimsey Soul:

Why do we need to be productive? Why is that kind of the gold standard of how we use our time? Why don’t we try to be sustainable, or kind, or just be?

Image: 4 archetypes /seasons of the menstrual cycle — from RisingWoman:

The notion of re-Indigenization is a term that was relatively new to me and that I knew as soon as I heard it, I wanted to hear from the interviewees what it meant to them. It’s one thing to strip away a colonial mindset or practice; but then when we ask ourselves, in the case of Indigenous people who have had practices and knowledge and wisdom and ritual for millennia if they can shine a light on that, there’s an opportunity to bring a whole new understanding and body of practice and wisdom into the MH space — this is what I would call re-Indigenization.

This progression from decolonization to re-Indigenization feels really appropriate because it acknowledges that Indigenous wisdom was already there before colonization happened. It already existed, but was beaten down and hidden and shamed and destroyed in so many ways. That to me felt like a really powerful shift mentally going from one to the other and it was really interesting to hear how each interviewee interpreted those terms.

Like taking away the colonized mindset (decolonizing) versus recentering traditional wisdoms and teachings (re-indigenization).

Madeleine: Exactly. And with the idea of reconciliation, according to at least one interviewee, that notion isn’t possible because ‘conciliation’ never existed in the first place — the prefix ‘re’ implies a positive settler/first nation relationship that we can supposedly hearken back to. So it’s kind of similar, right? We didn’t have those teachings and those learnings, but we can decolonize and take away our own mindset and our colonial contexts that we’ve been taught growing up.

Decolonizing Menstrual Health Project Vignette on Ecko Aleck, from

We’re using the privilege we have to center voices and experiences of equity-seeking people, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because their knowledge has value for all of us.

To me, that’s a profound act of allyship and reconciliation: building bridges with Indigenous people and centering their experience. It felt really good to do that because a lot of this stuff is talked about, there are lots of performative and perfunctory statements about inclusion and land acknowledgements, but actually doing the work and sitting and listening and then sharing it on a global platform is more tangible.

I am a huge believer in the value of basic human connection and trust. Once it’s there, you can do anything with it, and it kind of has its own energy.

On a more material level, often when I was speaking with the interviewees, they talked about ritual and ceremony and how important it was to them culturally. I’m deeply interested in that. I ran a rite of passage event series for adolescent girls for seven years, sometimes in partnership with Indigenous nations. These sharings reminded me that rites of passage are something that I want to do again in the future.



Madami is a purpose-driven advisory & innovation agency specializing in femtech, sextech and gender lens investing

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Madami is a purpose-driven advisory & innovation agency specializing in femtech, sextech and gender lens investing