GRL Talk With: Tina Charisma

Tina Antwi, also known as Tina Charisma, is a Ghanaian British Beauty Queen Finalist, Model, Speaker, Writer and a Youth Development Worker based in London. Tina has started an initiative, Charisma Campaign, to help raise money for girls in period poverty. The aim is to reach 20,000 girls in both the UK and in West Africa with her line of reusable sanitary cloth pads.

Hi Tina, tell us a little bit about yourself for those who may not know?

I’ve always had a great passion for advocacy, and started off really young. I was in youth parliament, and at University I was doing radio shows that were advocating for ethical and humanitarian issues. I’ve always, throughout the years, been using my platform for social good.

I guess, the passion has always been there but it’s taken different forms of exploration before arriving at this area of sustainability and empowerment around period poverty. Personally and professionally I work in International Development – and with this, my main focus has always been critiquing processes.

You’re using your platform to help end period poverty in a sustainable way, what does your initiative aim to do?

With the Charisma Campaign, it’s the umbrella movement, and one of the campaigns under this is the Go Eco Period, where I’m promoting sustainable period pads. From my international development work, I realised that a lot of charities go into orphanages and schools and dump pads, but they don’t necessarily have much of an impact because one month after, once that packet of pads has run out, what is the impact? There’s nothing left. So, I created my own brand of sanitary pads that serve the girls – they can last five years, meaning girls can wear one and wash the other on repeat. It’s looking at a sustainable approach to the issue.

With the word “sustainable” you immediately think about Mooncups, which is a nuanced issue, because that isn’t a priority for girls in period poverty.

Mooncups can sometimes hurt, and might not suit everyone. Development is about necessity and the basic need to get them out of the issue. Mooncups weren’t a priority as they’re not as accessable as a pad.

Definitely, especially for young girls. The conversation around period poverty is really starting to open up, with the likes of Bloody Good Period and The Pink Protest. Where would you like to see the movement go in the next year?

I want to offer development in how we approach the movement and processes; all these women are doing such incredible work but there’s always the capacity to improve. Your experience defines your advocacy, and this can sometimes create a divide – it’s about these movements coming together.

Yes, making everything more inclusive and intersectional.

Exactly, there’s a lot of these movements rising up so it’s about asking ‘what are we doing’ and ‘how can we do it better’?

You’ve served as a representative for UK youth parliament, was a finalist for Miss Universe Great Britain, have given a TED talk and so much more. What drives you to make a change in the world?

I grew up in London and had the opportunity to go to a boarding school in Ghana in my first year of High School. It opened my eyes to how a lot of these children didn’t have access to education, they were in school but had to hustle their way to pay their fees. It was a really grounding experience, and it made me appreciate life in London so much more. So, when I came back, I started to make a change. That humble experience drove me, as seeing and interacting with people who wanted so much and had so little.

Your career has been very multifaceted, have you found finding a balance hard and what advice would you give young women who want to peruse multiple avenues?

I think it’s simple. You can do whatever you want. To be honest, my interests link so well together – they’re in different areas but they can all merge together. If you’re giving a girl a pad, so she can go into school, and eventually get out of poverty – it’s addressing multiple issues with one action.

How do you get these pads to girls?

The pads are distributed by events, around schools and workshops. I really believe charity starts at home. There’s a tenancy for the West to think they’re saving the world, rather than looking at the issues we have here. I work very grassroots – it’s important to get it directly to the people who need it rather than just those who can attend our events.

Now for the question, we ask everyone on GRL Talk. What would you go back and tell your 16-year-old-self?

This is such an emotional question, I’d say “take your time”. I’d be so upset if things didn’t go the way I wanted, but now I’ve learnt to enjoy the process.

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