A few days ago, a 14 year old pupil allegedly committed suicide after she was allegedly humiliated by her female teacher for soiling her dress after menses. This story hit the headlines and conversations about period shaming emerged.
Her story unfortunately isn’t a unique.
Now, Period shaming is not a foreign term in Kenya and many other parts of the world. There has been a lot of taboos and shaming around periods.
we are still faced with being told that our periods are dirty and shameful, having our emotions invalidated because we’re bleeding, and resorting to hiding our sanitary towels on our way to the bathroom to change.
Do I need mention that we still have people who cannot afford sanitary towels and opt to use clothes,cotton wool and mattress ? Many Kenyan girls have had to stay away from school for a whole week or more because they cannot afford sanitary towels! Condoms are free, Sanitary towels are not! What a shame!
”Ten percent of girls in sub-Saharan Africa, where Kenya is located, miss school when menstruating. Because of the culture of shame surrounding menstruation, girls often miss school while menstruating since they do not have the proper products to deal with their period. Very few girls receive education about their period before it begins and according to recent research many girls are misinformed. For example, there is a belief among these young girls that they can only get pregnant while menstruating. Only 50 percent of girls say that they openly discuss menstruation at home. Another reason girls miss school is that only 32 percent of rural schools have facilities where girls can change the products for the period during the day”.
Now, growing up, I didn’t know about periods like I do right now. The people who ought to have taught me about menstruation didn’t. The only thing that happened was, we were given sanitary pads in school and we would hide it in our sweaters for the boys not to see. There would be a lot of giggling and whispering during those sessions which just shows how there was shame around this subject.
Most of us were told to stay away from boys. Persevere the pain that came with periods and not openly talk about it. People have suffered Endometriosis but were not aware of the ailment because periods were not talked about in the open and they were told to persevere!
When a classmate received her periods, she would receive pity looks from us, accompanied with a lot of woiye and Ghaaaai! We would then give her a sweater to tie around her waist and escort her to the toilet to get her dress cleaned. I dreaded for this day. I was lucky to have my cousin Vera around when I had my first period in boarding school. She taught me how to use a sanitary pad, so I didn’t get those ‘woishee’ looks.
In places like Nepal, Menstruating women are banished o scary, isolated “menstrual huts” until their periods are over.
In Kenya, we have students who risk dropping out of school due to period poverty. There is chronic absenteeism in school because the girls are on their periods and do not have a safe place to have their period with dignity.
There is need to break down stigma surrounding menstruation and ensure that women and girls have access to safe and affordable products, are not shamed and have information that will build them.
Menstrual hygiene information is fundamental in changing attitudes.
Menstruation — aka having your period — is when blood and tissue from your uterus comes out of your vagina. It usually happens every month. It is a normal biological function of a female.
Menstruation is a natural, and essential, part of the reproductive cycle. Roughly half the human population has or will experience it. But too often, menstruation is shrouded in mystery, leading to exclusion, neglect and discrimination. Menstruation is a normal biological function of a female.
Now, your menstrual cycle helps your body prepare for pregnancy. Generations are dependent on it. So, there shouldn’t be anything shameful about it.
We can end period shaming by having impactful conversations around it with both men and women.
Menstruation isn’t just a woman thing. It is a human thing.
Men ought to be included in these conversations. They need to be educated about it.
Now, How many of you men talk about periods with your partner? How many of you talk to your teenage daughters about menstruation? Why don’t you talk about it? What are you doing to end the stigma around periods?
Let’s not make a big deal out of period leaks and or stains. They are just that.Leaks. When we feel embarrassed about having period leaks, we perpetuate the belief that periods are shameful. There is nothing shameful about periods.
Prepare your girls early for periods . Have the talk. Make them feel that what they are going through is very normal and there is no shame about it.
I Malika advocate for end of Period Shaming!
I am not ashamed of my period. STOP the stigma.
Share your thoughts , information and ideas on how we can end period shaming and period poverty.
As we break down stigmas and normalize periods, let’s remember the people/places where sanitation and cleanliness is a luxury and where poor menstrual health has a serious impact. Every woman should be able to manage her flow in a private, safe and dignified way.”