Dignity mistakenly undignified

Posted October 6, 2017 from United States

Sisters, I invite you to close your eyes and remember your first menstrual cycle. What were your immediate thoughts and reactions? Now when your cycle comes, how do you welcome it?

When I first saw blood on my panties, I almost collapsed! It was disastrous, and being hypochondriac didn’t help. I was also overcome with fear of having contracted a shameful illness, one of blood leaking out my vagina, that part of my body associated with sinful activities that is what my circumstances made me think. Growing up, I remembered an aunt who had averted most of my nosebleeds by applying Vaseline to moisten nasal membranes.

My 9 year-old self-believed my vagina needed to be moistened, having dried up with blisters due to the dry, hot season. I thought I had contracted a disease, which I was successful in hiding for 3 months. It wasn’t until I stained my favorite light green shorts and had to stop playing with my friends to clean it off, that I realized that I had a serious issue.

I really needed to raise the horror with my elders. Deep in me, I knew that I didn’t do anything wrong, yet I was nervous when I faced my aunt.

“Tantine, I really don’t know what is happening to me, but I am heavily bleeding”…

“There. I have tried your trick with Vaseline and it is not working.”

I swear Tantine, I swear, I didn’t do anything wrong.”

The memory is still fresh in my mind. I was waiting to be punished, and though I didn’t care much if I was reprimanded, the health risk worried me. My aunt was surprised by the early menstrual periodbut, to my relief, she declared me a woman and gave some protocols to follow when attending to one’s cycle. Then she cautioned me to be careful around males as I was now susceptible to pregnancy.

It was encouraging that I wasn’t in trouble but I was still unsure about the ‘woman’ part of her teachings and warnings.

For a long time, I hated my periods. I did not embrace them till we started learning about menstruation at school and some of my friends started theirs. Then I had a sense of belonging. My period had differentiated me from my brothers, but I realized periods were a part of me. Thinking about my journey with my menstrual cycle, I am grateful to have grown to appreciate it. Now, I even brag when I have it. I feel more feminine and alive regardless of horrible cramps.

Why am I telling you about my personal journey? Because there are girls out there who go through serious hardships during their cycles. Collective social advocacy and change through outreach programs, access to sanitary supplies have been positive and brought some dignity to many young women. Pads are distributed in schools to decrease girls’ absenteeism from school. Cups, reusable pads, sponges and other innovative products are designed to provide us with comfort when our uterus is shedding blood. We are more confident and less stressed about “staining” our clothes...

But what happens if you are a girl who has access to all of sanitary supplies, but can’t afford underwear to support your padding? Or don’t have clean running water for the cup or sponge? What if you’re about to get your period and you’re panicked, wondering if you will be able to rent clean underwear at the school office?

Most of us have never been in that situation. These difficulties never occurred to me. However, many young girls around the world are vulnerable to these horrible experiences every month. They own few to no underwear. As a result, some schools use their stressed budgets to buy underwear for girls to rent during their monthly cycles.

How dignified is that? How can a young woman ever embrace her womanhood when her dignity is compromised the moment she is forced to wear rented underwear? How to support these girls to find their dignity and embrace their womanhood as I, and as many of you likely have? How to bring them back out of hiding into the schools and communities where they belong, and where they can bring us their beautiful gifts?

Comments 4

Log in or register to post comments
  • jlanghus
    Oct 07, 2017
    Oct 07, 2017

    Hi MwamikaziSug. Welcome to World Pulse:-) I remember the first time I had a period. For some reason I didn't get it when we had "the movie," and I was horrified. It's great that you weren't shamed when you told her aunt and that she listened to you, and that you embrace your cycle now. There are several organizations mentioned on here that provide pads and education on menstruation on this forum, to help those less fortunate... thank goodness. Do you have a vision/mission for girls/women?

  • MwamikaziSug
    Oct 08, 2017
    Oct 08, 2017

    Hello Jlangus, thank you for your warmth welcome. I really appreciate it. Actually I decided to talk about menstruation not only it is still hot debate in some of our of culture countries, but also a lot of organizations do their best to provide all the needs for adolescent girls and women. That is to say sanitary pads, cups or even sponges. Yet we often ignore that in some region, some girls don't have underwear support the provided sanitary pad or clean water for the cup. 

    when I learned that, it shook me and I started to remember how my own period journey. with the girls I worked with, we came up with an idea to do a creative activity where each girl made her own underwear with minimum tools she can get. 

    My vision is to see, girls champion eachother and build role models for the next generation. A world where girls are held accountable, empowered and supported. I am a creative, journalist trainer. I provide journalism tools to young women who then report successful stories of other girls in their community. Their stories reach all girls in the nation through different media platfom. 

    I hope it helps :) currently I am more focusing in gender advocacy. 

  • jlanghus
    Oct 09, 2017
    Oct 09, 2017

    Hi Patiye. You're very welcome:) It's great to have you here. I love your vision. Looking forward to hearing more about it. Do you have a website or social media pages so we can follow them? Thanks, and have a great day!

  • mae me
    Oct 09, 2017
    Oct 09, 2017

    Hi MwamikaziSug.

    Thank you for sharing your story. May you continue to share this experienced, especially to the young generation so that they too will appreciate womanhood.