By Nyoka Samuels-Gilchrist, MSN Ed, RN
Photographs by Nystasha C. Kelly
On May 6, 2023, the Women in Training Leadership Development Academy invited the WIT Monarchs, or WIT Young Leaders, to an intimate conversation about the sacredness of menstruation. Nurse Educator Nyoka Samuels-Gilchrist, MSN Ed, RN, of 7 Healing Waters, ushered the WIT Monarchs into a space of vulnerability and sisterhood. This workshop took a deeper look into the biology of the menstrual cycle, the responsibilities that accompany being sexually active, and how each WIT Monarch can care for herself while menstruating.
In a space that broaches such sensitive topics, the WIT Monarchs were unencumbered by adult ears and eyes outside of the facilitation of Nurse Educator Samuels-Gilchrist. The workshop was conducted in the privacy of the top floor of the WIT space with three Women in Training, Inc. leadership volunteers monitoring from downstairs. As the middle and high school Monarchs entered the space, they sat in a semicircle and began the opening session.
Nurse Educator Samuels-Gilchrist asked each WIT Monarch to write the most flattering compliment that they could think of, and sign it with her name. The facilitator then collected the compliments for random distribution during the closing session.
After the opening session, the motion of the facilitator candidly discussed the biology of the menstruating body and how pregnancy happens organically. The WIT Monarchs championed colloquial and scientific terms for the reproductive system. It was interesting to see the information gently being shared with the utmost compassion and light between the older WIT Monarchs, who had prior knowledge, and the younger WIT Monarchs.
The facilitator, an experienced nurse educator, helped the WIT Monarchs track the days of the menstrual cycle on a simulated calendar from the Always.com website. About 50% of the WIT Monarchs confirmed using some kind of tracking method, including apps and their cellphones, to monitor their menstrual cycle rhythm.
Bringing awareness to the WIT Monarchs about teen pregnancy statistics helped them understand how the River Region ranked, particularly Montgomery County where most of them reside, in comparison to other counties in Alabama and other states in the nation.
Along with menstruation and sexual activity comes the responsibility of protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease and infections. The WIT Monarchs shared what they knew about safe sex while receiving health facts from Nurse Educator Samuels-Gilchrist who dispelled common myths that were sitting in the room like elephants.
In the midst of it all, there were shy gazes, heads nodding, and the occasional turning to the adjacent WIT Monarch for reassurance, warranting pauses during the workshop. The pauses helped to acknowledge the discomfort in the room, release tension and focus on the breath. Yes, the information was dynamic!
Pediatricians are slated to prepare young menstruating teens for the HPV vaccine without much discussion about sexual activity. When the WIT Monarchs were surveyed, no one indicated that these conversations were being conducted with their healthcare providers. Given this fact, the workshop was timely for the WIT Monarchs as they journey into womanhood.
Nurse Educator Samuels-Gilchrist explored tips around self care as the WIT Monarchs highlighted routines that provide comfort during their period. The lightbulbs went on for several WIT Monarchs as they gathered tools that could increase menstrual comfort. The tips ranged from carefully selecting period products to eating dark chocolate, as well as listening to music, dancing and exercise.
After a Kahoot match-up between three teams, with Team Two taking home the win, the closing session provided a stabilizing connection within the special space. Each WIT Monarch selected one of the compliments written at the beginning of the workshop by another Monarch. The compliment then graced the WIT Monarch who read it aloud.
The following Women in Training leadership volunteers supported this workshop:
Adeyela Bennett, WIT Chief Engagement Officer
Kimberly Brown, WIT Board Member
Tania Johns, WIT Vice President for Youth Development
Donna Jordan, Manager, WIT Mentor Program
“It is inside of recognizing, loving and caring for ourselves that we can truly recognize, love and care for others.”
–Nyoka Samuels-Gilchrist MSN Ed, RN