The Untold Story of Girls’ Periods

*Alan Shadowrine*

Has it ever occurred to you that there are hundreds of people with no idea about the silent anxiety of monthly periods our girls encounter?

I vaguely remember, but I am pretty sure it was 2009. After reopening school, our literature teacher asked all students to write compositions about how their December holidays had been. She then asked us to read our compositions to the rest of the class. After a while, it was Juliana’s turn to read aloud her composition.

It was an enticing narration of how she encountered safari rallies on a muddy day, went to her grandmother’s place and had fun watching her uncle slaughter a chicken then suddenly; her legs started wobbling. She became silent and looked at the teacher. Her dress was wet, with a blotch of blood stuck on it. The teacher and some girls from the class walked her out right away.

Our teacher came back later and asked us to move on with the lesson but Juliana did not come back to school for the rest of that week. At recess, Edward, the-know-it all dude in our class, told me that Juliana must have been pregnant as he had overheard some people say that bleeding is an early sign of pregnancy. Well that, of course, was a pretty bad myth. Kamau insisted that Juliana had some challenges in holding her bladder, a far much worse myth.

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It is 11 years from that day’s myths class and so many things have changed. Imagine waking up to find out that your body unapologetically let menses out without at least giving you a hint. Think about looking at yourself from the reflection in the mirror of the school’s washroom, worried about leaks on your back. Think about having to tie a jacket around your waist because some blood decided to flow. Imagine wearing an angelic white pair of trousers only to remove it before leaving the house when premonitions of getting the trousers red and pale knock around your mind. Worse still, imagine addressing an audience, performing that great thing you passionately love, only to realize blood trickling down your thighs.

Because of the minimal space this topic is given, being a girl has always revolved around living with a certain kind of embarrassment. I have only heard of stories from friends and read in science books about one of the fundamental processes in the female reproductive system, The Menstrual cycle. Without first-hand information, I do not pretend that I understand the complexity of the process, but I surely do have a clue of how significant the process is to the health of not only the girl child, but also of the entire human race.

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The biology of the process has had its share in a library of books. Learning it in books and animations, apparently for school reasons, some people will end up clinging to one side of the story. As famous Nigerian, Chimamanda Ngozi said in her TED talk(find the talk in the video below), the dangers of a single story are too perilous. Learning and experiencing are completely two different things altogether.

Watch “The Danger of A Single Story”, the world-famous TED talk by Chimamanda Adichie that has over 6 million views on YouTube

The menstrual cycle can be too frustrating not only to the physique and esteem of the girl but to the general psyche of engaging in whole lots of other activities. I have had a few girls confess how excited they were when they first had their menses as that was the hallmark of their womanhood. Well, those are just a few girls in a world with millions of women who had an excited opportunity to have their periods come expectedly and normally. Sometimes, just when you put on that flickering yellow dress for a meeting, or khaki shorts for an out, the onset can come so unexpectedly. 

But then there are always stories unknown, experiences not shared and lots of disheartening confessions untold. While it is unfortunate that some girls may feel isolated, embarrassed and sad about their naturally occurring body processes, a lot of persons, governments and organizations have put in incredible efforts to help girls face life with much more confidence. However, there are still girls in the villages and deep rural places where the media and the concerned hardly reach, who don’t attend school, or fail to do so much of what they actually should be doing due to poverty of accessing sanitary towels, facilities to change menstrual protection or clean up among other necessities.

Purchasing sanitary towels is no way comparable to taking a dessert after french-fries and a whisky, so you can imagine how expensive that is for many girls. NO GIRL deserves the pain of having anybody laugh at them when poverty forces them to use old clothing which leaks whenever their time comes.

In the quest to find a suitable, safe and convenient way of facilitating menstrual flow, Leona Chalmers became the mother of what is now known as menstrual cup. While many girls in Kenya may not have not heard or used the menstrual cup, their popularity in the outside world is credibly gaining momentum. A study shows that more than three hundred women in the world have switched to using the cup and 90% of them have continued using the cup after the first trial. 8 of the 10 girls I asked ascertained that they had read or heard stories of the menstrual cup but had never seen or used one. The other two did not have an idea of what that was.

Literally, it sounds like a complicated thing to have a ‘cup’ inside your system for a couple of hours. So, how about this cup? It is a reusable hygiene product designed to trap and collect menstrual flow. The cup comes in various sizes for women who have given birth virginally and for women who haven’t given birth. The cup is made of rubber and silicon and has different ways of folding before insertion. Once inserted, it is slightly twisted to pop open. More details about the cup are available at www.organicup.com.

Talk to our girls, and let them know how to remain healthy, and so perfect with their monthly periods. Remind men of how understanding that this is a natural body process can help boost our girls’ confidence. Talk about it to the young boys to know of it and speak right of it, unlike my friend Edward and Kama. Teach our girls to lead a healthy life, suggest to them to carry sanitary towels and tampons, menstrual cups, for other needy girls too. Help reach out to the girls who hardly access the necessary health products for girls in whatever capacity you can. Because for sure, the womanhood of the whole world should never be trashed into neither the pit of shame nor turned into a laughing industry.

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