Universally, women and girls menstruate. The age may vary for every young girl, but the experience can be traumatic, sometimes even deadly.
I recently came upon two news items that shocked and saddened me. The first story was of an 11-year-old girl from the UK who had her period while in school. When she asked to be excused to go to the bathroom because her period had soaked through her clothes, she was refused by two staff members on two separate occasions.
The young girl was trying to avoid being singled out by the rest of her class, possibly the whole school. Instead of being supported by the staff, she was dismissed, which traumatized her from going back to school. Since those incidents, the girl has been given a bathroom pass, but the damage had been done. According to a study done by Plan International UK back in 2017, 49% of girls and young women aged 14-21 have missed at least one day of school as a result of their period. In addition to being humiliated for having a period and pain as a result of it, the cost of buying sanitary products may be prohibitive. Period poverty in the UK affects about 10% of girls who can’t afford them and 12% find ways to create makeshift sanitary wear just to have something. There have been initiatives launched like the Red Box Project based in Bristol, where period products are given for free, but more has to be done to eliminate the discrimination felt by girls and women who are affected.
The second story was about 21-year old Parbati Borgati from Nepal who was staying in a menstrual hut during her period and died of suffocation from smoke inhalation. Borgati who had been staying in this abandoned hut decided to keep warm one cold night by burning wood and clothing and tragically died in her sleep. Menstrual huts are not unusual for women in some parts of Nepal, India, and Africa and the concept of these huts comes from years of tradition and in some cases, out of religion.
The tradition of “chhaupadi” In Nepal is part of a long-standing belief stemming from Hinduism that during a woman’s menstrual cycle, she is deemed unclean. As part of this tradition, women are banned from being in the kitchen, using kitchen utensils, sharing meals, going to the temple or being with their families, and are segregated to huts made from mud or stone. The huts are no bigger than closets and these women brave the elements and pests on their own.
In recent years, women’s rights activists have fought to end “chhaupadi”. Even the government of Nepal has outlawed menstrual huts since 2005. They have gone so far as to criminalize it this past August for those who continue to force women to use them, but unfortunately in some western villages of Nepal, these actions have not been as successful. While tradition can be blamed for the continuity of their use, guilt plays a huge part in it as well. In areas where menstrual huts have been used by women for generations, it is difficult for them to turn their backs on what’s been viewed as part of their way of life.
One of the ways that “chhaupadi” is being discouraged is through cash incentives. Recently, a rural governor has offered to give $5,000 rupees to any woman who rejects using menstrual sheds. While it seems like a great solution, it’s not sustainable since so many still use these sheds out of tradition and fear of being ostracized by their families for not following this custom.
My experience with menstruation did not result in tragedy, but it was still traumatizing for a thirteen-year-old girl. I was on a family vacation when I got my period while playing outdoors with my cousins. I felt some discharge on my underwear and thought I had soiled myself. I ran to the bathroom and was gripped with fear when I saw blood on my underwear, unaware of what was happening to me. It wasn’t until my aunt knocked on the bathroom door to see if I was okay that I told her about the blood. It was then that I was educated about “periods” and what I should do next and in the future.
Why was I told about “periods” by my aunt, as opposed to my mother? As someone whose mother came from the Philippines, the word “period” was never discussed in her household, so I was never educated about it by my mother. This was a silent “problem” and no one was allowed to talk about it to anyone, especially men. Gender roles play a big part in a lot of Filipino families, and “periods” are seen as female problems. While there have been strides over the years to ensure that young women in rural parts of the Philippines are educated about menstruation as those living in urban areas, the perception of having a “period” is still seen as a woman’s problem.
In light of last year’s Academy Awards event in the US where the award for Best Foreign Film was given to a documentary short made in India titled, “Period. End of a Sentence.”, there has been a great amount of awareness brought towards the issue of menstruation. Created by Rayka Zehtabchi, the film showed how menstruation is still a taboo subject in rural parts of India and that even the word “period” evokes shame for girls and ignorance for boys. Education about menstruation plays a huge part in breaking the taboo it has affected generations of girls and boys. What struck me was how the girls reacted towards the word as opposed to the boys. The girls were painfully self-conscious saying the word, while the boys were quite unaffected by the issue, even worse, had no idea what the word “period” meant.
The film follows some women in rural Hapur district, just outside of Delhi, India, and exposes the contradicting points of view regarding menstruation between genders and as seen by older generations, but there were positive results as well. Discussing the subject of menstruation and the necessity of safe menstrual products like pads was crucial for both genders. Another positive outcome of the film was creating job opportunities for these women so they could feel empowered. That opportunity would come from an unlikely source, a man named Arunachalam Murugunantham from Tamil Nadu.
When Muruganantham found out that his wife was using newspapers or filthy rags for her period, he decided to create sanitary pads that were safe and could be purchased at a low cost. Muruganantham created a pad machine that made sanitary pads using cellulose fibers from pine wood pulp, which was great for absorption and retaining the pad’s shape. Traditionally, men have never been involved with anything related to menstruation, especially in rural parts of India, so it’s no surprise that Muruganantham’s wife, Shanti, was not supportive of his invention in the beginning.
Muruganantham’s goal of educating young women about safe sanitary pads through his pad machine and the rise of a micro-economy from selling them in local stores at a low cost has given these women the confidence to provide for their families. It was amazing to see the transformation of these women from being shy and silent about the topic of “periods” to feeling empowered and ready to provide for themselves and their communities as a result of Muruganantham’s invention.
The success of “Period. End of Sentence.” is an indication that more has to be done to enlighten parts of the world about menstruation. In today’s world where women from Western countries can speak freely about reproductive health, it’s heartbreaking to see other women that are still suppressed either by tradition or guilt to speak out about issues that harm them or lose their lives, just like the women who died in the menstrual huts. It is my hope that this film continues to break gender inequity, not just in India but in other parts of the world where women are banished just because they have their period. No woman deserves to feel invisible or worse, lose their life due to a lack of education, especially about their bodies.
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I read an article recently which claimed that happier adults have been raised by parents who were less psychologically controlling and more caring. The study at the University of Edinburgh found that people whose parents showed warmth and responsiveness had higher life satisfaction and mental well-being throughout their adult lives.
‘Psychological’ control is different from ‘behavioural’ control which we would think of as a healthy level of strictness e.g. applying boundaries such as set bed times, homework being done, and giving tasks /chores. The big distinction is that parents applying behavioral control set some limits on behavior rather than feelings.
Psychological control involves not letting children make some of their own decisions, invading their privacy and making them feel dependent. It also involves making children feel guilty. Unsurprisingly, people who had experienced such behavior in their childhood had lower life satisfaction levels and poorer mental well being.
By contrast, those who were brought up with behavior control had better relationships throughout their adult life. This has also been demonstrated in other studies which showed that warmth and responsiveness promotes social and emotional development whilst psychological control can limit a child’s independence and their ability to control their own behavior.
I’m sure the results of these studies will not be a big revelation to most of us but, in a nutshell, what came out loud and clear was that children in the behavioral control group felt that they were listened to, that they were given affection, and that their worries and problems were understood.
The psychologist interviewed suggested that parents should help their children to make as many decisions as possible on their own depending, as one would expect, on their age and maturity.
This, they said, allows children to develop a healthy level of independence and confidence in their ability to make important decisions. It reminded me of my own children and that I had instinctively adopted a similar attitude during their childhood. In fact, from a very early age, I gave each of them complete control and freedom over one thing. My daughter chose her clothes as, from the age of two, she was very particular about what she would wear to the point that we often called her Coco Chanel! My son chose his hair as he hated having it cut and would make a big fuss whenever it was time to go to a hairdresser.
Of course, this meant that my daughter provoked a few surprises when she appeared in some rather unconventional outfits and that my son often looked as though he belonged in a field, scaring the crows. However, they both really enjoyed and appreciated being allowed to decide these things for themselves and they learned a lot through their experiences. My daughter has had an ongoing love of clothes and design which was enabled in part by the fact that she could experiment and enjoy a lot of freedom in her choice of outfits. My son now has short, neat, hair having gone through the experience of trying to manage a wild mop on his head, and limited eyesight (he has learned a few things the hard way!).
Over the years, we have encouraged our children make more and more of their own decisions and, when making them, to use their good sense, their feelings, and their intuition. It has also helped them to understand that it’s okay to change your mind and that ‘wrong’ decisions are not necessarily mistakes, but an opportunity to learn from an experience and to change our direction since we all have different ways and paths to a destination. In many cases, it is these so called ‘mistakes’ which provide our greatest teaching and character strengths and, if we take this approach, life can be seen more as an adventure to be lived and experienced, rather than being fearful of making decisions in case they don’t turn out as we hoped for or expected.
Our children still turn to us for advice but it’s mainly to confirm their own judgement and we enjoy seeing them develop the confidence and positivity they need to manage their path through life.
This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Judith Nelson.
One of my twin daughters has always been a worrier, she is one of those children who feel the weight of the world on their shoulders and she wants to know and understand everything. This can be particularly difficult for her as she is dyslexic and this means she struggles to accurately read information and has to practice or learn things dozens of times before they sink in.
It would be so easy to label her a ‘natural born worrier’ but actually how would that help? All that does is give her story a strap line, something to trip over when she is older. I can imagine the conversations of the future now ‘well I can’t help it, I’ve always been this way. I’m just a worrier and I’ll never change’ but that’s not right. Of course she can change, we all can.
But we have to want to change and purposefully make positive choices to allow it to happen. As a nine year old she probably isn’t sure what she can do to change it, she probably isn’t even sure how to name her issue. She just knows she has this uneasy feeling and needs to check things time and time again and that at the end of the day she often feels overwhelmed and teary.
So as her Mum, I feel it is up to me to help her navigate this battlefield. I’ve had some run-ins with worry before although I’d never have labeled myself as anxious but I think that is just because it feels a newer ‘label’ to me or maybe it just wasn’t one my parents used and therefore I didn’t become accustomed to it.
I do think anxiety is what my daughter is suffering with though and as such I’ve been doing some reading to find out more and see how I can help her. I’ve discovered that research (1) shows that many children are born with a shy or temperate personality and these are the children who will probably worry more. I was very glad to read though that it doesn’t have to affect adulthood as many vocations require the very characteristics that cause the worry and that management strategies are available.
One such strategy that is working for my daughter and I is that I sit with her at the end of the day just for ten minutes and she tells me what is worrying her. We tend to find that the moment her head hits the pillow all the worries of the day rush in and overwhelm her and she is building courage and boldness to tell me about these anxieties and I can take them away with me. It is such an eye opener to realise some of the issues, guilt and situations she has been carrying with her for days, weeks or sometimes even years. Things I had long forgotten arise their ugly head and take over her thoughts but she seems to be able to trust me and allow me to reassure her or sometimes solve the issue. It’s amazing, things that can seem massive to a nine year old can actually be the easiest things for me to deal with.
There are some things I can’t deal with though and if she gets herself really wound up, we just sit there and cuddle and deep breath, allowing her body to calm and the hormones to subside and then we talk through how likely (or very often unlikely) it is that something will happen. For example, last week she bought 4 animal shaped erasers and whilst in the shop she decided to swap the pink one for a white one (same price) but instead of her asking the cashier she just did it. Nothing really wrong there as she had paid (and had the receipt) but courtesy and self-preservation would say you’d normally ask first to avoid looking suspicious.
I wasn’t with her when this happened, she was out with my husband but it was troubling her enough by bedtime that she broke down and told me the police would be coming to find her. I found out the story and reassured she had done nothing illegal and we talked about how busy the police are and we talked over a theft situation she knew of where the police had not really investigated as it was too small in comparison to other crimes. It took about fifteen minutes but the combination of listening without judgment, cuddling to soothe and then logic to beat the anxiety worked for her and she was able to go off to sleep easily.
The other thing we have been doing is turning to her bible and looking for reassurances from God. She has already made a commitment to follow Christ and as such has a deep belief and it has been fabulous helping her unearth bible verses that speak directly to her insecurities. Versus like the following have been a great success and I have been enjoying putting notes in her lunch-box, under her pillow and stuck on her mirror to catch her at different times of the day.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)
Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. (Proverbs 12:25)
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? (Matthew 6:25)
Another method I’ve come across that sounds really good is the three C’s (2). This means helping your child to Capture their worrying thought, Collecting evidence to either support or bust it and then Challenging their own thinking. Sometimes my daughter seems so scared by a thought that comes in her head that she just wants to push it down and not spend a moment thinking about it but this method demands that we give the worry some space and investigate whether it’s really something to be concerned about.
There are many other small strategies we are putting in place as well, like focusing on the positives and all the family share their successes at the dinner table each day, so we can remember to build each other up and acknowledge the good we have done. Then after we also share a mistake we have made and this is important for us all; to be mindful that results only come when we are willing to make an effort and sometimes fail at whatever it was we were doing but resilience and the guts to try again and again are super important.
I pray that through being open and real with our children, showing these imperfections my husband and I are able to model acceptance and love and this creates an environment where anxiety cannot grow.
As the months and years pass I’m sure I’ll learn new strategies and my daughter my not even need them any longer but for now if you have any tips on helping a child with anxiety, I’d love to hear them and please do leave me a comment.
Many thanks for joining me on this brilliant but rocky journey we call parenting. Mich x
Do you have an anxious child? What are some ways in which you help them cope?
This is an original post for the World Moms Network by Michelle Pannell, who can normally be found blogging over at Mummy from the Heart and Progress Not Perfection.
Earlier this week I wrote a gratitude post to share on my personal blog and I was really struck by a tweet someone sent me in response. It said “what an inspirational post, I need to do more good in the world” and it really got me thinking. We all need to do more good in the world. You only have to watch the news to realize there is a lot that needs doing but I think I might be preaching to the converted here as the crux of World Moms Network has always been to pull together mothers from around the world to share their experiences of parenthood and fighting for social good and human rights.
You never know though, there could be a mother reading this who has a real passion for the poor, is gifted at befriending or wants to ensure equality for all people but hasn’t yet had the opportunity or confidence to step out and do something practical. So this post is for you, to challenge you and to encourage you. Becoming a volunteer might not be the easiest thing you have ever done but I am totally sure it will be one of the most worthwhile.
This last week I have worked on a voluntary basis six days out of seven for four different charities. I’ve worked in reception and bookings for a Christian conference centre, sorted food at a warehouse and packed bags of supplies at the local Food Bank, coached a young boy who is on the cusp of exclusion from school and cooked breakfast at the homeless shelter. How many of these things are related to my day job or the work I trained to do? Very few but here I am doing them anyway.
It’s not usual for me to do quite so much voluntary work in one week and I’m certainly not advocating that you start out doing so much, it is just the way it worked out this week and they all fitted around my children being at school or my husband being home with them. That is one of the big benefits of volunteering, it is so flexible. I don’t have to give a full day, it was enough to do two hours at the night shelter this morning, that meant twenty men and women had a hot breakfast before they went back out into the freezing cold today.
A sense of satisfaction
“But why?” You might ask. “You have three school-aged children, paid writing work to complete, two blogs to manage, church responsibilities to take care of, friends to see and a house to upkeep Michelle, why do you need more?” The simple answer would be that I don’t, there is lots in my life but I love to be busy and I have a very strong work ethic. It is totally the right thing (for my family) for me to be available for the kids out of school but forgive me, it doesn’t always stretch or fulfill me in the way that paid out-of-the-home work used to so this was the initial reason I got into volunteering.
I’m giving back
Also since becoming a Christian fifteen years ago I have a heightened awareness of just how blessed I am to live in the UK and to have a comfortable life with great family and friends. I truly believe that all people are equal and therefore it goes without saying that I just can’t stand the inequality we see in the world.
I desperately want to change things and be able to feed all those starving across the world but actually I don’t have the skills to do that so I have to make sure I am taking my small footsteps and joining together with other generous and compassionate people to make ripples that can longer term become waves of change.
It challenges me
Not just change elsewhere in the county or world though, there has been change in me too, both in terms of my skills and also my mind-set. I’m ashamed to say that before I started volunteering with the Food Bank a few years back I had no idea just how difficult life is for some people. It is easy to assume that those living off our British benefits system want to be doing so and might even be milking the situation. Over the last couple of years I have learnt that I cannot judge anyone, we all have different journeys and you are only qualified to comment when you have been there.
If you, like me are a mother taking time out of your career right now to be more family orientated then volunteering is a wonderful way to continue with your personal development. Most industries now want to see evidence at interview that you have been keeping up to date and developing your skills. Through my volunteering at the food bank and night shelter I have increased my compassion, ability to talk to anyone and my willingness to do the grotty jobs. Then my work at the conference centre has helped with my patience and working with characters who may not share the same views as me and my volunteering as the coach coaching a vulnerable child has helped with my own parenting in regards to having fun together, really listening and setting boundaries.
I’m sure you can tell I love my voluntary work and there is so much out there that you can do. My heart is for the poor and that is the reason I undertake most of my voluntary roles but you might be passionate about animals, wanting to help those you are bereaved or on fire for protecting the environment. I just urge you today to take ten minutes on your computer and see what local volunteering opportunities there are that might suit you.
Go on, I think You’ll enjoy it! Mich x
Do you volunteer?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Michelle Pannell who can normally be found writing at Mummy from the Heart and Progress Not Perfection.
It would have been so easy to judge these young mothers in Ethiopia but they were doing a phenomenal job of mothering
As parents there are so many things we want to teach our children. Of course we want them to grow up to be well-rounded adults who are kind, compassionate, humble, resilient, loving, fun and display sound judgement but each of these traits takes time to develop and serious modelling from us, as parents.
If we are to be role-modelling these positive attributes then we need to have developed them too and realistically some are much easier than others. It is so simple to show love and affection to your child and in doing that helping them to take this skill into adulthood, the same with fun but what about a trait like resilience, humility or judgement?
These skills are much harder to teach and we have to have learned them ourselves first to even be able to consider passing them on. We also have to be willing to take a risk and allow our child to see us in a vulnerable state, when we are admitting that we made a mistake, that life doesn’t always go to plan and that it is wrong to make snap judgements.
It is far too easy to jump to conclusions and make judgements about another person. We see them or a situation and within a split-second we could have made a judgement about who they are or how they live their life but that’s not a good thing. Yes, it might be perfectly natural and until our brains are trained we all do it but that doesn’t make it right. We’ve all heard of the fight or flight response in a situation that scares or worries us and judgement is part of that. Have a read of this short scenario –
We see a very cute, small dog tied up in the street and go over to pet it. Crouching down and chattering away to the dog as you get really close, offering your hand first so as not to scare it. It starts to bare its teeth and snarl, all of a sudden snapping at you and pulling the lead taught. Well, my judgement was off there you think to yourself, I wonder what the dog’s problem is. Then as you turn your back to walk away, you see the owner come back and it is a woman, much like you, same build, blond hair and she shouts at the dog and then hits it and you see this formally brave pup start to cower and whimper and all of a sudden you understand. You represented a risk to that poor little creature, you looked like the woman who mistreats it.
This scenario remind us that we never know the story or a stranger, be it a dog or a person and that is why it is so important that we learn to use judgement in the right way. Of course we still have to make judgements every day and keep ourselves and our families’ safe but we can drop the judgemental behaviour, the looking down on other people and the words and actions that can isolate and even devastate another.
What I’ve found is that the amount we judge others normally equates to the way we feel about ourselves. If we are 100% happy with our lives then it is unlikely that we will take the time to find fault with the way someone else looks or dresses but when we feel down on ourselves then it is so much easier to justify our own failings by picking theirs out too.
It is therefore impossible to drop the judgemental attitude without working on some other fundamental character traits like humility and contentment and of course it isn’t always easy at first when we want (or know we need ) to change. It can be painful but it will be really worthwhile.
Here are some tips to help us teach our kids (but first ourselves) not to judge –
- Be mindful – catch your own thoughts and realise what you were thinking, negative judgements may still pop into your mind but push them away and replace them with positive affirmations
- Pause and then think before you speak or act – such a simple one but really necessary. When you catch those thoughts, don’t let them turn into actions or words, remember how they are likely to wound someone else.
- Think the best of people – look for the good in everyone, it is there. Even your neighbour that drives you crazy has some redeeming qualities and when you choose to focus on them you will shift the whole balance of your relationship.
- Depersonalise – When someone says something that you don’t like or agree with, let it go. They are just expressing an opinion or living life in their way, it is not all about you.
- Look for the connection – One of the things I have discovered whilst travelling to new countries in the last few years is that even though on the surface situations might look so different, we are more alike than different. At the end of the day all the mothers I have met just want the best for their children.
- Fight the fear – when you judge it comes from a place of fear but when you seek to acknowledge and address the fears you can be free from them
- Get involved – in initiatives that open your eyes to what is happening in your neighbourhood. I volunteer at the local food bank and winter night shelter and it would be so easy to judge the people who come into the food bank with smart clothes and a pristine iPhone but then I might find out their house burnt down and they didn’t have insurance, so yes they really do need the emergency food parcel.
- Stop judging yourself/ Feel good about yourself – Life is so much easier when you are kind to yourself. We are all fallible humans and we make mistakes, life isn’t perfect and you will fall short of your own expectations at times but that is OK. No-one ever became the best they could be by beating themselves up. Admit the mistake, look for the learning point and move on.
Being content and free of negative judgement is an absolute blessing and I think Brené Brown sums it up well: “If I feel good about my parenting, I have no interest in judging other people’s choices. If I feel good about my body, I don’t go around making fun of other people’s weight or appearance. We’re hard on each other because were using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived deficiency.”
If this is an area you have struggled in and worked through then I’d love to hear any tips that you have that might help others too.
Brexit. The news is everywhere. How does this affect families in the UK and around the world? We called on our friends (literally, they are friends with Jen Burden’s sister-in-law!), “Good with Money” in Great Britain, a site launched by two moms who provide financial information and inspiration for families, to get their perspective from inside the UK!
What is Brexit (the short version!)?
Brexit. A week or so before the EU referendum I was in the playground with my youngest son. An elderly Chinese man looking after his grandson started up a conversation. I could just about understand his English. His comment was, basically,
“What on earth are you doing, Britain, holding a referendum on whether to leave the EU or not? Are you mad?’” Well, clearly, we are.
The UK woke up on the morning of 24 June, many of us in utter disbelief on realising 52 per cent of the country had voted to isolate our tiny island kingdom and leave the European Union. The EU currently has 28 member states, a combined population of more than 500 million, a combined GDP of more than US$18bn and an internal single market governed by its own laws. The UK joined the precursor of the EU, the European Economic Community, in 1973. So to answer the Chinese grandad, yes, we are mad, we held the referendum, and (gulp) we voted leave.
And, if that was not enough madness in itself, we’ve since seen the Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron (Remain), who called the Referendum somewhat as an election winner, resign. The two main Leave campaigners, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, also resign (from the resulting Conservative Party leader election race and as leader of the UK Independence Party respectively). The other key UK political party, Labour, remains in turmoil with a leader, Jeremy Corbyn, refusing to step down despite more than half of his ministers resigning just after the vote. AND…we’ve still not really heard a peep from the Greens or the Liberal Democrats (who led our coalition government between 2010 and 2015). The only person with any sense saying anything with any sense is the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, who is Canadian!! (Read our latest on that here.) And current Prime Minister Theresa May, who voted Remain, vows to follow the will of the people after the vote to Leave.
Leave or Remain, there is no averting the harsh lesson we are now getting in how that abstract and amorphous “economy” deeply affects our personal lives and society both close to home and further afield.
They say nothing is certain in life except death and taxes. Well, in the two weeks after the vote, I’d say that’s been proven, and one million times over. Previous certainties about jobs and the employment market, freedom of movement, house prices, household bills to loan rates and other personal finances have all been thrown upside down, topsyturvy.
And one of the worst things is that some of those who are most likely to have voted Leave – the disaffected and disenfranchised – will now be among those most negatively affected by the country’s decision.
We will ALL be affected, and in far more subtle and profound ways than just how much our mortgage bill or rent goes up, as the impact of the financial crisis proved. Following the shock of 2008, higher house prices resulted in an increase in the age at which people get married and have children; the huge public deficit resulted in more people working into retirement and young people who can’t get jobs have to live with their parents for longer. More of the same again cannot be ruled out.
Despite the crazy turmoil at Westminster and in the City of London, a lot of clever people are working out how to protect us from Brexit’s illest effects. Lower interest rates and money printing are on the cards. These strategies might be a recipe for everliving debts and poor retirements, but they will buy us time.
What are the top 3 effects on the world economy after the Brexit vote to leave the EU?
The effect on the UK economy has been, understandably, pretty pronounced. There are apparently 700,000 fewer jobs advertised in Britain since the Leave vote. Across the globe, too, markets were rocked and currencies in freefall, although they have since recovered.
Almost two weeks after the vote, the British Pound had hit another 31 year low, and it still remains well below its pre-Brexit value over one month later. There is talk of it reaching parity with the US Dollar before the end of the year. Good news for tourists visiting the UK, but not, generally, for many others.
Meanwhile, inflation, made worse by the falling Pound making imports more pricey, looks set to increase. But by how much? A few spikes notwithstanding, inflation has been fairly low for a number of years. Now, economists predict it could more than double before the end of the year, rising to as much as 4 per cent next year.
In the UK we import 60 per cent of our goods - that’s a lot, hey? So what do we do if our EU or even global trade agreements are not (re)negotiated fairly? That’s a lot of stuff to miss if our friends in Europe no longer choose to sell it to us at favourable rates. Say au revoir to affordable Mozzarella, Balsamic vinegar, Feta cheese… blimey, this could even spell the death of our beloved Prosecco habit!
The GBP has seen a devaluation. What are some of the challenges this presents for families in the UK and abroad?
As soon as the Leave vote was announced, the British Pound slumped to its lowest level against the US dollar in 31 years. Almost two weeks later, it fell yet further, to new 31 year lows. It has also tumbled against the Euro. Despite a growing chorus of positive voices, this still makes for pretty hard reading.
It means British families with holidays booked to Europe, the US, or even elsewhere, are going to find it pretty tough going, financially.
With the Pound worth less than it was a month ago, everything is going to seem almost unstomachably expensive. So, those Brits who’ve yet to book a holiday will most likely see the summer of 2016 as their Staycation year, keeping the money closer to home. UK resorts should do well from British travellers, and they should also do well from an influx of visitors from around the world making the most of a cheap Pound.
More worryingly, perhaps, the 4.5m British families living and working overseas (with 1.4m in the EU according to the UN) are in limbo, wondering for how long they will be able to stay, and suddenly finding everything significantly more pricey.
While some in the Leave camp argued prior to the vote that Britain would be able to carve out a fuller role in foreign aid outside of the EU and would be able to develop broader international political alliances, such as with former Commonwealth countries, there’s still scant evidence emerging that this will be the case. (Frankly, there’s little evidence of anything emerging, on any future matters at all, eeek!) In fact, a number of leading names in international aid such as Oxfam, WWF, Christian Aid, ActionAid and Save the Children, signed a letter pre Brexit stating their view that only by remaining in the EU can Britain extend its reach and influence when tackling global humanitarian crises such as Syria, Middle East and north Africa.
Britain currently spends 0.7 per cent of gross national income on foreign aid, with the official budget rising to £12.2bn. The signatories of the letter said: “Every pound of aid the UK spends through EU institutions is matched by £6 from other member states. This larger pool delivers better lives for the poorest people. It also helps tackle problems in areas where the UK has no large presence. EU aid complements activities that other aid agencies cannot undertake, like police and security missions in fragile hotspots.”
So, much as those Brits living and working abroad are likely to suffer, people from developing countries who work in the UK will also be hit, as the value of what they have to send home falls further.
Will the UK’s exit from the UK make it more difficult for EU members to work in Britain and vice versa?
The jury’s still out on whether it will be more difficult for people from EU member states to work in Britain and Brits to continue working across the EU. Although I am very happy in Britain (even if it still feels a bit like a rather rudderless, possibly sinking, ship at the minute). I did find myself embracing my Irish roots (my mother is Irish) when I woke up on 24 June, the thought of wanting my kids to have the same European freedom of movement I’ve been lucky enough to have, if they so wish. I heard a rumour they’ve shut the Irish passport office though, so too late for me!
What is your top practical financial advice for families everywhere?
If like many of us in the UK British, European, African, American, Asian, etc., you find yourself wondering w h a t t h e h e c k t o d o n o w , we’ve come up with a few post Brexit ‘keep calm and collected’ financial tips:
- Consider switching your energy supplier. Homegrown renewable energy is less sensitive to price volatility and kinder to the planet.
- Check your savings balances. Up to £75,000 deposits are covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme; the EU deposit guarantee limit is Euro 100,000.
- Analyse your everyday spending to guard against too much vulnerability to further falls in the Pound.
- Hold off buying foreign currency. (Or see it as a chance to change all those Dollars and Euros hiding in drawers and down the back of the sofa back into Pounds!)
- Consider fixing your mortgage. Yes, rates are tipped to fall, but there may be short term volatility and fixed rates are superlow at the moment
- Go local, buy local. Support the local economy, it’s going to need it.
- But go global, too. Investors should ensure their portfolios are globally diversified and denominated in several currencies, not only the Pound.
You could also check out our Positive, Practical and Principles Good with Money tips to get your family finances back on track post-Brexit.
For more on the financial effects of Brexit and more, Lisa and Becky can be found providing financial tips for families in the UK at Good with Money.
This is a guest post to World Moms Network by Lisa Stanley in the UK of Good with Money. (Thank you, Lisa!)
Photo credit to Jennifer Burden.