- May 28, 2022
On the 28th day of May every year, the world observes Menstrual Hygiene Day. This year’s theme; ‘Making menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030’, has brought with it a sense of nostalgia, and the disheartening realization that menstruation still remains a taboo topic marred with stigma and shame.
Considering the many years that human beings have been in existence—evolving, innovating, and changing cultural norms—it should come as a surprise that a biological process that has been with human beings through and through is still looked at with disgust.
In the spirit of making menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030, I am reminded of and I want to narrate the first time I had my menses. Here’s what happened.
My dad and I were travelling to the countryside and I began experiencing an excruciating, unfamiliar abdominal pain. I tried explaining to my father what I was feeling, and he got me painkillers. The pain persisted, however, so I slept it away through the journey.
As we alighted for a 30 minutes transitory stop at Nakuru, my dad noticed a patch of blood on my dress and immediately reconciled what had been happening to me. I wish I knew what exactly went through his mind as he prepared to tell me the things he said to me next. I am grateful, that my first experience introduced me to the world of menstruation without a hint of stigma.
Dad first got me fresh clothes and pads and then took me to a place I could shower and change. He went on to teach me that whatever had happened was normal, and it would happen to me every month. I had been taught about menstruation at school before, but the reality of it only hit when I finally started menstruating.
They say that first impression matters. My first experience with menses was pleasant, albeit with the painful abdominal cramps I experienced. I admit, the pains scared me. Later when I went back to school, I excitedly told my classmates about my first experience, and there were murmurs. I then realized that whatever I was talking about was taboo, as one of my classmates reported me to the class teacher, accusing me of talking about bad things in front of boys. It became a topic of discussion and it took me a while to understand the stigma. I was only twelve.
If only we can look at menstruation as a biological process just like excretion, or tearing up, it will be easier to deal with the stigma that comes with it. This year’s theme that revolves around stigma should be something that we are beyond, but because we are not yet there, let’s keep preaching against the stigma and shame that is associated with an inevitable biological process.
I look forward to the day a woman will confidently excuse herself and say, “I need to change my tampons/ pads.” Just the same way we excuse ourselves, unashamed, whenever we need to pee.
Happy menstrual hygiene day!
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June 28, 2022