As women, our life stories vary, but one thing holds true – we will each have a journey through menopause. But for many of us, speaking about menopause and its effects is a taboo topic. So much so, that we feel like what we are experiencing is novel or new or unique to us. We don’t understand that we aren’t alone.
And that’s what Evelyn Femi-Paul found out when she chose to break the veil of silence that Black women face with this topic. This is her menopause story.
Becoming the Menopause Diva
Evelyn Femi-Paul is charting new territory in Lagos, Nigeria and amongst the African diaspora. She is the founder of Menopause Diva, an online community providing verified menopause-related information, counseling, coaching, and support to over 2,500 women (and growing) worldwide.
Her vision for Menopause Diva, which she started in May 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, sounds pretty simple, yet in reality is no small feat:
Raise awareness of menopause so women, especially Black women, are better educated, empowered, encouraged, and supported during the inevitable menopause journey.
For Evelyn, she thought, “even if it’s only one woman I can help, I’m going to do this.”
But she has certainly been able to do more than that.
A debilitating experience that’s now serving others
Her experience is like many of ours, and offers helpful insight into what those who are still facing menopause transition may experience in the future.
“My experience with menopause was quite debilitating. The symptoms hit me like a volcano.
The most common knowledge about menopause is hot flashes so I was not at all expecting to experience any of the 33 other possible conditions that come along with the phase.
One day, in the middle of my confusion, I prayed and told God that if He could help me through what I was going through, I would help other women who may be going through the same experiences too.”
She learned a lot through her experience, and now she’s sharing with others to help ease them through this period.
The idea of the strong Black woman
Evelyn couldn’t help but notice that during her initial research to understand what she faced, that the majority voice, online and off, was that of white women. And it’s not that they too don’t face the stigma of talking about the topic, but the voices of other women – women of color was glaringly absent.
According to Evelyn, “the idea that Black women are strong and can weather any storm does a disservice to the issues we face in menopause. Black women do not want to be perceived as weak or crazy, so we stay silent. As a private person, I was uncomfortable speaking of these issues publicly as well. But that narrative is changing. More Black women are getting equipped with information and feeling empowered to speak up.
Some icons like Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Viola Davis and a few others have spoken publicly about menopause, thereby using their voices to make other women bolder and more willing to share their menopause stories too.”
Understanding the need for a menopause support group
“I want to use the knowledge, experience and networking skills that I have to educate, empower, and equip women, especially Black women, to navigate their menopause phase and still live a full and rich life. To be a friend, be there for someone. Let them know they’re not alone.”
Evelyn didn’t expect to have gained as much interest in discussing menopause when she first started. But the engagement and feedback she’s had, meant that she needed to also create a safe space to discuss menopausal issues which led to her private Facebook group.
Why men should be involved in the conversation on menopause
The topic of menopause itself comes across as a distinctly female one. But men are important to the discourse. Many women who have been through this process have found it difficult to explain what’s happening to their partners, especially since they don’t fully understand what they’re facing. We aren’t taught about what to expect in schools. And men are uncertain how to interpret and react to what we go through.
The changes can be drastic. And if your partners aren’t aware of what to expect, it will likely cause problems in the home. This is part of the reason why Evelyn provides public speaking engagements on the topic to a diverse audience and also why she teaches her daughters, as well as her sons about all things menopause.
Making an impact
“In this phase, our work is with women -- menopausal women, who are confused and have no clue of what is happening with them. To give them clarity and let them know that they are not alone, because the symptoms can make you feel detached from the whole world.
We are throwing out a lifeline to these women and empowering them with helpful information on medical and natural options to experience relief from the symptoms.
Another phase will see us working with educators, community leaders, employers, and home-based individuals on how they can leverage their voice to the cause. I currently host a periodic virtual meeting with topical and industry experts called ‘Menopause Conversations,’ where we discuss issues surrounding menopause and provide answers to many questions from our online community.”
What does success look like for you?
“I would one day hope to see Women lend their voice, unashamedly, to advance the menopause narrative, especially in Africa. It is the right of all women, old and young, to be properly educated, empowered, and equipped for the menopause phase and also our collective responsibility as Menopausal Women, to ensure that the next generation of women doesn't walk blindly into menopause.
It is my desire to see the subject of menopause included in educational curricula so that young girls and boys are informed on what to expect and how to prevent/manage symptoms when the time comes. I hope to see menopausal women in the workplace get all the support that is needed from employers and colleagues, so that they can thrive and be everything they have desired to be. I hope to see menopausal women getting the same or similar love and attention given to pregnant women, at home and out in society.”
Her menopause Call-to-Action
“A problem shared is a problem halved! During my one-on-one coaching time with menopausal women, I have observed how each woman feels isolated and drowning in her symptoms…especially when the symptoms are debilitating. The simple knowledge that there are about 6 million other women around the world who are menopausal and experiencing similar symptoms, brightens them up and helps them want to give themselves another chance at living their best lives. This is why we have the Menopause Diva Support Network on Facebook, a private community where women can share the highs and lows of their menopause journey without fear of being judged or misunderstood.”
Evelyn’s mantra is “your life eventually becomes a reflection of your words.”
We never know what form menopause will take. But the more prepared we are, the better able we will be to tackle this new phase in our lives. If you’d like to join a safe space to discuss menopause and get support for what you may be going through (or better prepare for what is to come), inclusive and representative communities are out there – and are growing and emerging each month.
You can start with Evelyn’s private Facebook group, Menopause Diva Support Network. Look out for her periodic online chats, Menopause Conversations, where she and her guests share insights on menopause topics and use their stories to enlighten and strengthen other women.
Evelyn Femi-Paul is a speaker, pastor, trainer, coach and certified image consultant. You can follow Evelyn on IG and connect with her @menopausediva. Join the Menopause Diva Support Network on Facebook!