Menstruation Frustration

You may hate your period, or you may be among the rare species that is indifferent about it. Whatever the case may be, it is more than likely you have an opinion about your period that you share or have shared with friends, family, or Twitter. Everyone that has attended their maturation program in elementary school is aware of the natural, monthly cycle that allows girls to let a baby marinate inside of them. High emotions of all types, cramps, and/or urgent needs to nap can all be agreed upon side effects while women’s ovaries are hard at work. When you had your period for the first time did you know what was happening? Were you afraid to ask someone about your bleeding crotch? 

When my period comes around every 28 days or so, I am more than likely to be bugged by it or find it an inconvenience to my routine, but I have never felt fear from it. I have never thought, “I am evil” or “I am a burden to my family for bleeding out of my vagina”. This, unfortunately, is not the case for many developing countries, especially Asian ones. I spent a couple of months in the South Asian country of Nepal, and was shocked about how lucky I am to have the experiences that I do with a period. Period. I have had my fair share of cramps and emotional roller coasters, but I understand these temporary feelings as “period stuff”. In Nepal, “period stuff” is getting sent to the family's cow barn while menstruating and missing school and other public activities for the five or so days. Nepali people believe that when a girl is on her period and they touch a flower, the flower will die. If a girl milks a cow while on her period, it is believed that the cow will stop milking. Periods are essentially tied with evil according to these people. 

When I learned about what a period was, I think I was confused but not fearful for my spiritual status. If I bleed through my pants in public I will probably be embarrassed and want to go home to change immediately, but I would never be accused of sinning or be forced into separation. As I worked with an organization called Days For Girls, I was taught the curriculum that they teach to a variety of ages to inform girls and boys that periods are simply natural. They say, “menstruation is a gift from God; it is how we are all here.” I had never felt THAT passionate about my monthly cycle, but I am now! The curriculum they created introduces what menstruation is because it is never discussed, even between mothers and daughters. They discuss the male and female reproductive systems, how a baby is made, and how to reduce cramp pains among other things. 

This team of women I worked with put in an impressive amount of hours on a daily basis, all in order to make strong efforts to show people that one is not evil when there is blood coming out of their vagina. As these ladies would say, “The uterus is what makes a woman strong.” It is only a matter of time before these ladies (and other teams throughout the world) educate all girls and boys on the matter. By providing underwear and reusable pads, hygiene routines have proven to be effective and healthier. By giving girls a pair of underwear, they are less likely to be raped because sexual predators can’t as easily take control of the girls.  

When I start to break out or cry at a Sarah McLachlan commercial, I know that I will be staying in more frequently that week and will probably need to have chocolate ice cream at some point. I will not be sent to a cow den, miss school, and feel guilty about how I am affecting my family, though. One can only hope this message is passed and received to people in many developing countries to ensure girls do not fear themselves. In the meantime, donating underwear, helping to make reusable pads, and spreading the word are ways to help this process.  

Photos: Cover, 1