There is so much behind menstruation in my society that needs to be handled with care. From my secondary school days till date I have witnessed women (both young and old) who soil themselves with menses. I understand that they have not had the lessons I got on menstruation for many parents do not know and so will have nothing too to offer their young girls. You can only offer what you have. When I was in secondary school I saw girls whose menses came unexpected and they got their school skirts stained with the blood. Sometimes they did not even know that their periods had come until one of us would indicate to them that something was wrong. As such, they would borrow a pullover and strip it on their waist in order to conceal the stained skirts.
The two most appalling incidents of this kind of embarrassment which I witnessed were in recent years. One in 2016 and another early this month, May 2019. In 2016, I was sitting in a church house with family. We were baptising my baby and so I sat behind adults who were also to receive baptism on that day. A young girl of about 22 sat directly on the pew in front of me. Sometime during the sermon, she turned to me in despair and asked:
“Do you have a pad?” I saw panic in her eyes. She was dressed completely in white. I do not know why she chose to approach me instead of the other woman that was sitting close to her.
“I do not have a pad my dear, but I think a baby diaper will serve the same purpose” I replied with compassion. I knew what she was going through. I remove one unused diaper (Huggies) and secretly sent it to her under the pew. No one saw what we did. She took it, thanked me and walked out of the church to the toilet where she wore the diaper to prevent the menses from soiling her dress. When she came back, I saw that she was more comfortable and I was pleased that I had saved a fellow woman from shame and stigma.
Later that same Sunday, the service was still going on and I went out to change my baby’s diaper. I was sitting under the eaves of the church when another young girl walked to me and asked whispering:
“Is my dress stained?”
“No it isn’t” I assured her. She thanked me and walked away. I wondered why all the young ladies chose to approach only me with this problem of menstruation.
Last year, a young girl was having her first period. She did not know about it and I am certain that it came with cramps. I was teaching in her class when she walked up and asked for permission to go out. I granted her the permission and she went out. A few minutes later, she stood at a distance outside the class and beckoned on me to come. I silently obeyed and went to see her outside.
“Madam, there is blood on my pant” she said. She was on the point of tears.
“What happened? I hope you are not pregnant and you were trying to commit abortion,” I said in fright.
“No Madam, I am not pregnant. I don’t even have a boyfriend” she defended herself. That was when it dawn on me that it could be her first menstrual flow.
“Okay. Have you had your menses before?”
“No Madam.” At this point she was already crying.
“Don’t worry my dear. It is ok. This happens to every healthy young girl. You just need to go home and clean yourself before you get soiled here. If your mother is at home, she will help you okay?”
She walked into the classroom, collected her belongings and went home.
The last incident was early this month. I was sitting with several women at the ANC unit when a lady in her late 30s walked past us with a soiled skirt. She had nothing to conceal the blood stained skirt with. I beckoned on one of the nurses to tell the woman that her skirt was stained.
“Her sister has gone to get her a pad” the nurse replied. Later on the nurses got a sponge and the lady brushed the blood off her skirt.
What I presuppose from these incidents is that most ladies do not know how to track their periods on a calendar. If they use calendars to mark when each period starts and when it ends over a period of time, they will master when the next period will come and so get set with a pad so that they do not get embarrassed. This is a lesson my mum taught me and it has helped me all my life. I think I have an assignment to rally young girls and women in order to pass this message onto them. If I am not able to rally them physically, then I need help to create a blog where everyone can learn about their periods.