Menstrual Mystery: stopping this sustained shame

Kurui
Posted November 1, 2019 from Kenya

In September, a story hit the news headlines in Kenya; and finally globally- a teenage girl committed suicide after being shamed by her teacher (a female no less) for 'soiling' her dress with her periods.  The first question that hit me hard was: when did we as women decided that periods are shameful?  It had never hit me that it is the case anywhere among women for I knew mostly men are the ones who view it as such!  A young life ended just like that-for reasons so natural and beyond her control- it was alleged from family sources that it was her first periods so she had not prepared for it.

So based on the shame we seemingly have attached to our own bodies and natural processes, are we really fighting the right battle in ensuring that girls and women access dignity in their sexual and reproductive health?  As much as there are efforts to distribute sanitary towels especially to school going girls in marginalized communities; which most governments in developing countries are either doing or have pledged to, is the behavior even of women themselves right in dealing with the issue?  Even with access to proper menstrual hygiene products/services, why would it be an issue of shame to handle one's own periods or accidentally soil clothes?

I realized that this shame has contributed a lot to hindering absorption of reusable towels-not based on any empirical data but general observation.  The mention of reusable towels is very repulsive yet it presents a very viable alternative both in quality and sustainability including being friendly to environment.  manufactured towels are definitely the best choice in terms of convenience but affordability remains a great hindrance.  During the menstrual hygiene month, government and other organizations distribute towels to sampled school girls, mostly a packet each- until the next year.  How is this even viable in the long term?

Shaming one another on behalf of nature then stands in the middle of offering other solutions and also the quest to fully do away with gender based prejudices especially those involving self shaming.....  Can we manage to stop this long standing behavior of self hate and shaming?  Behavioral change should then be integral to menstrual hygiene and other reproductive health efforts

Comments 19

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Jill Langhus
Nov 01
Nov 01

Hello Kurui,

A big welcome back to you!!! Yes, the story about the Kenyan girl committing suicide over her period was a definite low point in September. I hope that everyone can work together to stop self hate and shaming, too, especially over a natural process and I agree about reusable pads. A lot of women on the platform are offering these to girls and women. It's definitely more sustainable.

I'm looking forward to hearing more about what you're passionate about and what your goals are.

Hope you have a great weekend!

Kurui
Nov 01
Nov 01

Thank you for the welcome back Jill. I have surely been away too long but not from working with and for girls and women.
I would be happy to connect with the women who offer reusable towels and see how to collaborate- my aim is to go an extra mile together to do advocacy and campaign for adoption of the towels- especially along the issue of accepting menstruation as part of a woman and not shame or dirt.
My passion is to see women and girls free and able to make choices and decisions touching them with confidence. Towards this, my goals and activities which I am involved at community level are income generation, education support at all levels, mobilization for participation in governance and decision making, access to water & adaptation to climate change for sustained food production.
Hope you also have a great weekend. Lets engage more.

Jill Langhus
Nov 02
Nov 02

You're very welcome, Kurui!

Well, we're happy to have you back, dear:-) I love your drive and initiative. Thanks for clarifying what your goals and mission are.

Check out these posts for similar interests and potential collaborations:
https://www.worldpulse.com/community/users/evelyn-chioma-joseph/posts/92518
https://www.worldpulse.com/community/users/welisane/posts/92412
https://www.worldpulse.com/community/users/eulayola/posts/91885
https://www.worldpulse.com/community/users/odionanavhe/posts/91449
https://www.worldpulse.com/community/users/kadablah/resources/91294
And even more sustainable, reusable cups:
https://www.worldpulse.com/community/users/seemakhandale/posts/92299

There are more, too, if you just do a search for "reusable pads," if none of these potential leads work.

Thanks for the well wishes, and looking forward to engaging more:-)

XX

Oluwatoyin Olabisi
Nov 01
Nov 01

Hello Kurui,
Beautiful write-up. It is often said that Women are their own enemies but we that are passionate should not give up hope.
Keep up the good work

Bukola Olalere
Nov 01
Nov 01

Its so sad that menstruation is now bringing about shaming to the point of suicide. We really need lots of advocacy in these field most especially for teenagers living in remote communities. Thank you for what you do and really the idea of disposable pad is good because of its sustainability.

Tarke Edith
Nov 01
Nov 01

Hi sister
I am very sorry for the lose of this girls life.which is the neglegent of the teacher.
I hope that has thought her a lesson she will never forget.
Thanks for sharing with us .

Lisbeth
Nov 01
Nov 01

Hi Kurui,
You have been missed! Hope all was fine,? And that only busy schedules took you from us? Welcome once again and congrats on your new post.
Honestly I wept with the bereved family

Unfortunately, it was was a great lost for the family. What has become of the teacher now? Any punishment? My sincere condolences and take care of yourself.
Thanks for sharing

florence kekong
Nov 01
Nov 01

Oh! Kurui, so bad. Hard luck here. I pray that we all bring out workable strategies to stop this ugly situation. Thanks for sharing and hopefully, I believe that you would succeed in the campaign against self-hate. May God bless you richly. Amen

kabahenda
Nov 01
Nov 01

Hello Kurui,
I am truly sorry that a young life was lost through the irresponsible and insensitive behaviour of the teacher.

How was this situation resolved? Is the teacher still in service?

No young woman should made to be ashamed because of her periods.

Would this young woman have been the object of bullying by the teacher and other pupils?

I hope that you help the school and teachers deal with all the presenting issue-the suicide-but also other underlying issues.

Thanking you for bringing this to our attention.

Rachana Singh
Nov 01
Nov 01

Hello dear Kurui,
Stirred by your write up. This is very sad when a child takes such extreme step about ending his/her life. More than the teacher the onus goes to the family who failed to stand by and protect the child's self-esteem. Why's our younger generation becoming distant within their own family and relying more on the outside world be it teachers or any other mentors to soothe and comfort them. A teacher's opinion or comments or guidance can never be at par with what a mother herself taught her child. Menstruation is a natural process in women and girls who are coming of age must be prepared completely to handle it by her mother FIRST thing.. there will be uneasiness, moodiness, physical pain and sometimes soiling of the clothes (even in public) and nothing of this is any cause for shame and hiding away from the world for a girl. There is no reason for any outsiders be them the teachers or neighbours or relatives to humiliate our children given any circumstances.
Your idea of the reusable sanitary towels and pads is commendable as the world is struggling with menace of plastic pollution. Why to hate to clean it ourselves and use the piece once again of what has been discharged out of our own bodies?
Thank you for writing about and speaking of this disturbing incident and the possible remedy.

Sending you love.
Rachana

Anita Shrestha
Nov 02
Nov 02

Dear Sister
It is sad news. Therefore, it needs to raise awarness in the local to global level

Spiritedsoul
Nov 02
Nov 02

Hi Kiru,
I definitely agree there is nothing to be ashamed of this natural process at all. Reusable pads are much more sustainable, better for the environment as well, and I believe they should be offered everywhere, all over the world. Let’s put it into this shame, it is a shame it self that seems a natural, not the issue being shamed.
Hugs,
Jess.

Loreen Meda
Nov 04
Nov 04

Bullying takes place at all levels of maturity, and it is sad to say that sometimes the people we trust our children with are the perpetrators. It is sad to hear, let us keep being vigilant and hold each other accountable as women. I remember my first period how shocked I was to find that I had spoiled my uniform at school. I was lucky that though my teacher was male he made me feel comfortable and called a lady teacher from the next class to assist me. I can not imagine how traumatic it would have been if everyone made fun of me.

I support the idea of reusable towels.

chimdirimebere
Nov 05
Nov 05

My dear Kurui,
What a sad story! For us grown ups we may not understand the trauma this young girl went through. Finding out that she soiled her school uniform. Probably she may not have heard of 'period' in her entire life and all of a sudden blood started gushing down her legs, Oh my goodness! And then to compound her fear, an adult, a female for that matter, messed the whole thing up. Well, need we say more, we all have our share of the blame. In our little corner, what are we doing? We need to take stock because more stories as this may still be told if we are not proactive enough to help.

Please i will want to ask that if any member in this community is already working on the reusable pads, i will like to know how to produce it because i am really interested and would want to start something like that in secondary schools in the rural communities.

Thanks, Kurui

Harriet

Juliet Acom
Nov 05
Nov 05

Hello Kurui,

This is so sad especially at a time when the whole world is advocating for menstrual health and encouraging the public to promote it especially in schools.
This life can not be brought back but we can use this story as a benchmark to promote menstrual health especially for early teens to mid teen years.

Thank you for sharing this with us and may the soul of this little one rest in eternal peace

Tamarack Verrall
Nov 06
Nov 06

Dear Kurui,
Your work to change the prejudices, fears and yes, betrayal of even women toward young girls beginning to menstruate is among the most important of all. "...are we really fighting the right battle in ensuring that girls and women access dignity in their sexual and reproductive health?" This fear of and shaming of what should be a celebration and welcoming of coming into womanhood is especially painful when it involves betrayal by another woman. I mourn this young woman's death and the pain she must have felt. All the best with your continuing critical work.
In sisterhood,
Tam

Ekitah
Nov 07
Nov 07

Hi Kurui!
Thanks for this writeup. Its so sympathetic to learned a girl lost her life because of nature. Such things shouldn't keep happening. We have to accept the way nature made us and make others to also understand it, instead of pushing us to commit suicide.

ANJ ANA
Nov 09
Nov 09

Dear Kurui,
So sorry to hear the news on poor young girl in Kenya. Its really very sad that due to the taboos, women/girls are suffering for the sake of being women/ girls and their own bodies and natural processes. You are absouloutely right that the women's reproductive health/ menstrual hygiene need to be ensured by government, please continue your effort and let's make our voice loud and clear.
love and regards,
anjana

Kimthomasin
Nov 11
Nov 11

Hello from America! As a lady with a reproductive illness this gave me ALL THE FEELS. I can't tell you the number of times I mention my illness and people tell me "it's gross" or "I don't want to talk about that." Menstrual health is a part of physical health and it's ridiculous anyone feels shame for a natural body function. Thank you for talking about this! If every woman did it would be so normal we could buy tampons from an ATM