I had to go to a nearby shop to buy breakfast for the family at about 8:00 am, but when I got out of bed, my sister noticed the blood stain on my dress and instead of telling me what she noticed she went to inform my mother. A few seconds later my mother came into the room with my sister to confirm the little gossip. My sister is two years older than me and at the time, she had already began to menstruate. I had no clear idea of the subject but I remember However that I was introduced to the subject at school about one year before I had my first experience. Some of the bigger girls in Class giggled and laughed when my class teacher talked about blood and ovulation but I could not understand why they were laughing when something as scary as bleeding was mentioned.
I was lucky to have a mother who understood when I started menstruating, that it was an important period in my life. She later on helped me to take a shower, showed me how to wear a pad and took out time to explain to me the menstrual circle using an A4 sized sheet of paper.I still remember vividly how my mother underlined the period of ovulation almost 4 times while she explained the menstrual circle, and emphasized “Sex is for married people, don’t even think about it“. My father who had been working on the morning shift, came back home later to find my mother and I discussing about menstruation. He simply smiled and asked “In school”?
My story is evident that it is not impossible to have conversations about menstruation with your daughter, it is not rocket science, its is a conversation.
Generally, In most countries of the Global south, sexual and reproductive health topics are still treated as a taboo subject. Menstruation is one of the subjects that is not talked about openly in most countries in the world, and girls are either kept out of school for menstruating or discrimitated against in communities while they are on their menstrual period.
I reached out to the Initiators of Menstrual Hygiene day: WASH United, an organization located in Berlin Germany, I first wanted to Know from them if Menstruation is also a taboo subject in Germany?
Respond:Menstruation is a taboo subjects everywhere, and even in Germany. It is dealt with in secrecy and many are ashamed of it. What we cannot talk about and what is not visible cannot be changed.
What initiatives are you carrying out in Germany to break the silence around menstruation?
Respond: We as WASH United don’t work directly in Germany . (We had an exhibition in 2014 in Berlin, and planned together with the German Toilet Organization and event this year, but MH Day can be celebrated by everyone, everywhere. There are many MH Day events and activities in USA , Australia and Europe, too! However, the experiences and surroundings to manage menstruation can differ widely, and Women & girls face many more barriers to manage their menstruation hygienic: This can be ( a combination of ) lack of sanitation, water, soap and access to information and access/affordability of menstrual products. The work of WASH United is concentrated on countries of global south.There is a real growing movement on activities to; Promote period positive and end shame,Make fundraiser for homeless or even donations for projects in developing countries and To advocate to end tampon tax.
As we all join the rest of the world today 28th of May 2016 to commemorate menstrual Hygiene day I invite you to join this conversation. Let’s break the silence surrounding menstruation by; raising awareness on the importance of menstruation to the sexual and reproductive health of girls around the world.
Girls Excel a Cameroonian NGO a lead organization in menstrual hygiene management and sexual health education is donating a total of 500 sanitary pads to girls in rural communities In Cameroon. According to the Country Director of Girls Excel Ms.Konda Delphine, the right to girls education in most parts of rural Cameroon is being violated through inadequate menstrual hygiene education, insufficient water and sanitation facilities and poor access to sanitary menstrual materials. Find out more about their work at www.girlsexcel.org
Mother of Hope another NGO has also donated 300 sanitary pads to girls in rural communities and recently carried out sensitization talks about menstruation in two regions of Cameroon, Notably in Buea, the regional Capital of the South west region and Bamenda the regional Capital of the North West regions of Cameroon. Find out more about their work here
As we Gear up to commemorate menstrual Hygiene day on the 28th of May 2016,let us bear in mind that menstruation matters, the silence around menstruation, as well as the lack of access to sanitation facilities and hygienic absorbents in developing countries, directly affect women’s and adolescent girls’ self-esteem, health and education
School attendance: 1 in 10 girls in Africa miss school during menses (UNESCO).
Health: Vaginal infections are 70% more likely when using unhygienic materials.
Stigmatization and insecurity: In Some communities women are still prevented from participating in events or activities just because they are menstruating.
Share your story as a contribution to breaking the silence around menstruation.