These were the thoughts that kept fighting and crushing into each other in my head as my heart raced I could taste it in my mouth. For some reason menstruation was something I only remember discussing with my friends when I was ten. My mother had gotten me this really cool book that had pictorial discussion of changes in the body during puberty. I was the coolest girl in class since I could speak about this so casually. ‘Always’ sanitary towel company had come to our school and done those demos with pads. How to wear it, how to change it with the blue liquid. I honestly thought a girl’s period blood was blue until Ciku an older girl in school talked to us about it one day.
Now here I was, in form two at 16 years and the Period had already started when I was 15. I had not told anyone, I was scared people around me would start using it on top of all the other ugly things I was used to being told. So this was going to be my little secret. I would save every shilling I would be able to steal from evening purchase of groceries for supper to be able to buy a pack. I know my mother would cry if she heard this but fear had crippled me and this not being made fun of was at my most priority.
Our school not having the best system of sanitary towels disposals did not help my situation much. Fear that someone would go through my bag and see the pads crippled me so I would result in using one pad the whole day till I got home and could easily change without fear of disposal or of someone finding out I was currently on my periods. Up to date I rarely ever go around telling anyone when am on my period, including my husband.
On this particular day and sadly there would be many more days like this even into my adulthood, I had soiled myself. Either I sat wrongly or the pad moved or whatever happens happened. Outside after class, my other age mates would look at me and whisper among themselves. No one had the guts to tell me what was happening including my best friend. When it became unbearable, I decided to go to the toilet and check. It was the worst toilet. It smelled like sewage and waste and everything bad put together. It was neither clean but when I turned my skirt around and saw I had soiled myself, It became my haven. I wanted the earth to swallow me, I wanted to die than to go out and see all those faces again this time around knowing very well the reason why. Period stigma had enveloped and stamped me for the bottomless pit of self-loath and despair. I don’t remember what happened that day after leaving the toilet but what I know for sure I needed a friend and no one was there for me that day.
It is the reason we have Adopt A Girl’s Month in the present day. It is the reason why we focus on the community high schools that have been forgotten, that have been left behind. It is the reason we give two packs of sanitary towels instead of one. It is the reason we do not know how menstrual cups and re-usable pads would work for our beneficiaries in Dandora. Maybe I went through it all so that no other girl I can reach has to go through it again.
Parents, guardians and teachers creating an environment where talking about Menstruation and period stigma, misses and wins is very important. Normalizing the conversation will be something I might never get back but will strive to have this for my daughter, for the girls that we mentor and for anyone who has endured period stigma. I am sorry you had to go through shame for something so beautiful and natural. Let’s keep the conversation going. What is your story? What do you wish someone said to you or did different?
Positive Young Women Voices (PYWV), founded by Lucy Wanjiku Njenga, is a CBO based in the Nairobi slums of Dandora. PYWV advocates for the major challenges facing young women and girls living with and at risk of HIV. These challenges include teenage pregnancy, poverty, gender based violence, access to friendly health facilities and information. Armed with experience, PYWV’s advocates fill these gaps by offering mentorship, providing linkages and referrals, creating awareness and offering information and education.
PYWV also help reduce the health risks and vulnerabilities girls are exposed to for lack of a sanitary towel. Through the Adopt a girl’s month account on M-Changa, they have adopted 55 girls in Mt.Zion High School in Dandora. With your support, they plan to adopt about 200 more girls from five more schools in the community. To adopt a girl this month, kindly send your contribution to PAY BILL: 891300 ACCOUNT: PYWV.
M-Changa is a Kenyan online and mobile fundraising platform that was launched in 2012 to make fundraising more convenient, more efficient and more secure than the traditional harambee. To date, over 30,000 fundraisers have raised millions of dollars from over 500,000 contributors.