Period Poverty- Her Last Enemy

Thelma Musanhu
Posted October 1, 2019
Period Poverty

For every woman who knows what it feels like to Bleed and not have a Solution.

Remember when you feel your PERIOD coming yet you have not prepared for the first drops or the entire four days of the bleeding. It’s become the norm for you to bleed without material, the price of the kit is worth your household's daily feeding, must your siblings and aunts starve because it is your time? After all, "It is just blood, every woman should know what to do with it," they say. You could sweep the neighbor’s house for the price of half a kit, tomorrow you can wash clothes for the teacher who arrived from the city to help you pay off the other half price for the valuable kit. It's exciting to fend for yourself, raise a few coins to help maintain your dignity but your joy is soon dampened by a thought, a thought of knowing who managed the entire household. You know very well that these few earnings will never find their way to you, your father will find a better use for the money.

You are back where you started, wondering about your menstruation flow, could this be the humiliating price you pay for being a woman. Its either you don’t have enough money to buy the kit or the only person you could ask is probably your father, brother or male relative.  Sadly, you have been taught well, “Your Periods are your Pride your own Private Matter” how could you ever divulge such treasured information to the male species, silence has for long become your companion, you must bleed and not tell.

The sickening worry about the cloth to hold back the thick dark red blood turn into fear and anxiety, you have never been this afraid of being humiliated by something so natural. Each month brings its horrors, the cramps can never compare to the humiliation of menstrual stain. You must maintain your dignity among your peers at all cost, could it be that you are the only one who has never felt the fabric of a pad, Sally the shop keeper’s daughter, your good friend can choose the pads she will wear. Maria the teacher’s daughter has her pads brought to her from the city by a well to do relative.  If you ask for their help, they will gossip about your plight to the whole village, even the boys who play on the dirt road will know that nature has sent a red message to you.

The women of the house have all gone to the field, time is no longer on your side, the first drop has made its first appearance. Your world has been shrunk to fit in the red fluid as you begin your endless search for something, anything to suck up this flow that never fails to visit.  Last month you used dried grass, very dry and pricked you in many areas, this month you will search long and hard for the material that works best for you.

Quickly, you would roll up some toilet paper from the last roll in the entire house, yet knowing full well that using the remaining roll of toilet paper for “Petty issues like Menstruation” would land you in serious trouble. This thought is not as frightening as staining your school uniform while in class, however, you still roll back the toilet paper as the questions on the sudden disappearance of the toilet paper will reveal your private matter to all prying ears. Never forget your mother’s long discussion about this topic, ’Your menstruation is your private matter”

Panic strikes as you continue your unfruitful search for the ultimate menstrual material. You think of your period and then you think of your old WHITE school socks. Yes, they could work, pads are white and so are your socks, but what about the stain? socks will need to be washed and worn on your feet, you wonder in silence. Hope has since vanished but you must maintain your poise, well at least until the blood is hidden even from your sight.

Your Father’s newspaper edition from the previous day could be a very good option, No! if it went missing, your private matter could be known even by the youngest child in the compound, how can the world know of the flow that defines you.  Finally, you settle on an old stained cloth that belonged to your mother, dirty and torn on some parts, at least it could hold back the blood just for a while. Luckily she would not notice it went missing, this would do!

You settle for the old cloth, who knows where it had been or what it was used for. That too is not your main concern at this point because all you are thinking of is your dignity  besides  the upcoming  important school test the teacher had been constantly reminding you about, “Don’t forget, Tuesday we have our final test, if you miss this one then that’s your own problem” You feel the discomfort of this old torn cloth and a slight itch but what saddens you the most is that its barely 1 hour since you wore this cloth yet you can feel the blood on your thighs as the rolled-up cloth leaks in some areas.

Again, you think of your father’s old newspaper but that too is a no go area. Reality kicks in as you are forced to choose between your dignity or the pending class test, there is no way out for you but to choose dignity (the little that is left of it) because the period shaming would be too much for you to handle.  The boys will point at your big visible stain, laughing so hard that it probably hurts. The teachers will scold you so shamefully that you will end your life. Finally, dignity has won yet pride longs for you to be among your pears learning, dancing and playing as the flow continues.

Tears flow down your ungreased cheeks as you turn back home now wondering what excuse you will give to your mother for missing school. She toils all day in people’s field, sweating for your education, she does not know that each month you lose four days of learning to this blood that has become your enemy, the basis of being a woman. What will mama think when she finds you home, she has taught you to fend for yourself when its time just as she did when she was a young girl.

Your community does not want to see your bloodstains yet they do not want to hear your plea for menstrual support. Your teachers expect you to have the very best grades but none of them have never bothered to ask why you constantly miss school every four days of the month.

Hang in there young girl, you have been told to be silent for far too long, we a standing firmly fighting your silent battles. A cloth to hold back the shame is all you need and we will fight for that cloth. Must we watch as you are humiliated, must we continue to embrace these taboos that drowns your confidence. Our governments are slowly awakening to our call, help is on your way. 

Keep on believing although the horizon has not yet illuminated from the orange sun, the sun will still rise, help will come your way. The four days you have missed to something so natural and beautiful, the flow that defines you will be restored. Start speaking about menstruation even to the trees in the forest, one day you will have the courage to speak to your helpers. Let your silence melt in the soft whispers about the blood that never fails to visit, one day you will be allowed to shout out loud for help. Keep fighting for the flow that defines you.

This story was submitted in response to GirlForce: Unscripted and Unstoppable.

Comments 12

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Hello, Thelma,

Welcome to World Pulse! It's such a joy to have you in our growing sisterhood.
What you wrote here is very relatable to a lot of women in the world. You have described the menstrual experiences well using our gift of writing. Having safe pads are our basic right as women. It's sad when we cannot provide this basic necessity for our monthly period.

Thank you for sharing this message. There are a lot of our World Pulse sisters here who wrote about their menstrual experiences. You can read those here https://www.worldpulse.com/raise-your-voice/menstruation-matters. You can also connect with those who started a campaign for menstrual health.

Looking forward to reading more from you!

Thelma Musanhu
Oct 01
Oct 01

Hello Karen,
Thank you very much for your nice comment and for sharing the link to other stories about menstrual health. It's such a joy to be here writing about the plight of our girls all the hope that helps comes their way. We have launched a unique Global campaign to end period poverty so we would also like to use the power of words to mobilize global support to take action and give girls the help they need.

You’re welcome, sister. It is truly nice to be here.

You can post on our Resources page, too. You might want to explore the opportunities for funding there.:)

Thelma Musanhu
Oct 02
Oct 02

That sounds like a good idea, thank you I will do that

You're welcome, sister. There are new opportunities posted from time to time. :)

Thelma Musanhu
Oct 03
Oct 03

Thanks :)

You're welcome. :)

Jill Langhus
Oct 02
Oct 02

Hi Thelma,

Congrats on sharing your first story, dear!! You have written such painfully, beautiful narrative of your period. I'm glad to hear that help is on the way. Please keep us posted on your campaign. I'm looking forward to hearing more about your work and dreams, too.

Hope you have a great week!

Thelma Musanhu
Oct 02
Oct 02

Hi Jill,

Thank you for the encouraging words sister. I hope to raise awareness using such type of stories, although sad to read, our girls will soon get the help they need. I will keep you informed on our Global campaign dear sister. Please feel free to introduce us to your government or people whom you think can help.
In the meantime, help educate a girl about MHM.
Wishing you too a great week

Jill Langhus
Oct 02
Oct 02

Hi Thelma,

You're very welcome! Great! Looking forward to it!

You can private message me, if you would like to brainstorm about who to collaborate with on the platform or you can visit the "community" page and search by topic and region, too:
https://www.worldpulse.com/my-pulse/community

XX

maeann
Oct 03
Oct 03

Hi Thelma,
Welcome to World Pulse were women are heard and connect to each other.
Thank you for encouraging girls about what they are experiencing with regards to their menstrual cycle. May your global campaign reach more girls that they will be educated and bring awareness to this period of poverty.

Thelma Musanhu
Oct 03
Oct 03

Hi sister, thank you very much for the encouraging words. We hope to have a heightened awareness of MHM and Period Poverty, in the meantime help us educate a girl about menstrual hygiene and give a voice. You too can be a part of this great movement