Vietnam Time

9/25/2018 4:42:32 PM

Natalia Vodianova is teaming up with the UN to tackle taboos and empower women

Vogue meets supermodel Natalia Vodianova as she exclusively announces her latest international platform - together with the UNFPA - to assemble global policymakers and address the issues surrounding women’s health and gender equality.

Natalia Vodianova (Photo: Vogue)

Supermodel and philanthropist Natalia Vodianova has teamed up with the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) to tackle taboos surrounding women’s health, choices and rights. Let’s Talk! 2018 will be a two-day Davos-style conference, taking place in Antalya, Turkey on October 25-26. "Already there are great initiatives; things are moving, but how can we speed it up and make it louder?" the mother of five – wearing a dalmatian-print blouse and Chanel pearls – asks Vogue, over tea in London, ahead of the Burberry show.

The event, which will be hosted at Maxx Royal Resorts Kemer in partnership with her digital charitable-giving platform Elbi, follows on from her Let’s Talk! project with period-tracker app Flo, for which she filmed a series of conversations with supermodels - including Izabel Goulart and Emily Ratajkowski - to raise period awareness. This time, her guests will include government officials, policy makers and activists, covering a range of issues from special needs to domestic violence. 

Involvement of the Special Olympics (a global sports movement for people with intellectual disabilities) was very important to Vodianova.

"We want to bring inclusion into the conversation as well. Often, people with special needs – when it comes to reproductive health of women and men – it’s another level. It’s like, ‘Those people shouldn’t get married, or those people shouldn’t have children,’ and this is really hurtful to families like mine to hear that." (Vodianova’s sister, Oksana, has autism and cerebral palsy.) Period poverty and the stigma attached to menstruation is a subject Vodianova has long been passionate about.

To date, her most engaging Instagram post was of her posing with a sanitary pad – "a clean one" – in support of Arunachalam Muruganantham, the Indian pioneer for menstrual health, known as Pad Man. "I’d never had so much engagement in my life. Two per cent was, ‘Well done, we should speak about it more.’ But 98 per cent was, ‘What is the next selfie going to be, you on the toilet?’"

That led her to study the statistics. "Seventy-five per cent of factory women don’t work during their period, so that’s ten days for some of us, a third of the time you could be earning income." 

She continues: "Forty-five per cent of girls in India fall out of education in grade 6, when they get period, as some families prefer to keep them home as they will now be vulnerable. But most of it is because of the shame. And 10 percent of girls in India believe when they get their period something is super wrong with them because they’ve never been told about it.

"We’re fighting for gender equality, for sure, but we’re missing this really big elephant in the room, of learning how to communicate to our partners, to our children, about our female nature," she says. "We are trapped in age-old ideas of who we are and how we are expected to behave. Our bodies are natural and life-giving. This work is important to humanity."/.

  ( VNF/The Vogue )
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