Imagine being in school and starting your period, feeling panic and fear, not knowing what is happening to you. Unfortunately menstruation remains a taboo topic and is seen as a source of shame, a reality faced by so many young girls.
‘’When I menstruated, my father saw me washing my underpants. I was very shocked and did not say a word. He asked me what it was and I told him nothing. My mother told my father it is normal for girls to experience this. But my father did not believe her. He said that menstruation happens only after a girl has had sex with a man and that I am not ready. Then, he beat me and asked me to tell him how this happened to me.’’
The sad truth is that there is little support for menstruating girls. This important step into adulthood is not openly talked about and often misunderstood. The first time many girls learn about their periods is by having them. Girls like 16 year old Akeza; ‘The first time I menstruated, I had stomach cramps and I was very shocked! ... I told my friend that I had started menstruating because my mother did not tell me about it before... Mothers do not usually talk about menstruation or puberty with their daughters.’
In the Tigray region of Ethiopia 98% of girls lack access to sanitary products which are expensive and difficult to find. Girls are forced to use whatever materials are available such as grass, leaves, old rags or nothing at all. Many young women are afraid to go to school during their period where they can face ridicule from their classmates. Some even drop out altogether missing their chance to create a better future for themselves.
‘I was very embarrassed... I was afraid to leave the house.... I didn’t even to go to school.’
‘I would like younger girls to know that they should not be afraid of menstruation. They shouldn’t be shocked, upset, or embarrassed. It is a sign of being a woman.’
With the support of dignity, young women like Akeza are each given a pack so that they can manage their monthly cycles discreetly and are able to stay in school.
To help girls manage their period with dignity, please donate here.
Related Work: Quality Education For All