Periods, Blood, Menstruation (Gross, Secret, Hidden)
A natural biological process that every girl or women goes through every month for about half of her life. A Phenomenon that is so significant that the survival and propagation of our species depend on it. Yet we consider it a taboo. We feel awkward and shameful talking about it.
When I got my first periods, I was told to keep it a secret from others- even from my father and brothers. Later when this chapter appeared in our textbooks, our teacher skipped the subject.
Do you know what I learned from it?
I learned that it is shameful to talk about it. I learned to be ashamed of my body. I learned to stay unware of periods. To stay decent.
In research, various parts of Pakistan shows that three out of every 10 girls are not aware of menstruation at the time of their first periods and in some parts of rural areas, this number is as high as nine out of 10 girls being unaware of it.
Menstrual hygiene is a very important risk factor for reproductive tract infections but in Pakistan, only 40 percent of girls and women have access to hygienic ways of managing their periods and in rural areas, 88 percent of girls and women use unhygienic ways to manage their periods. Due to repeated washing, the rags would become coarse and I would often get rashes and infections using them.
Another issue that periods brought in women life was those of the social restrictions that are imposed upon our girls and women when they’re on their periods. I think you all must be aware of it, but I’ll still list it for the few who don’t. you were not allowed to touch or eat pickles, you were not allowed to sit on the sofa or some other family member’s bed. you had to wash your bed sheet after every period, even if it was not stained. you were considered impure and forbidden from worshipping or touching any object of religious importance.
Ironically, most of the time it is the older woman who imposes such restrictions on younger girls in a family. After all, they have grown up accepting such restrictions as norms and in the absence of any intervention, it is the myth and misconception that propagate from generation to generation.
During my years of working, I have even come across stories where girls have to eat and wash their dishes separately. They’re not allowed to take baths during periods and in some households, they are even secluded from other family members. About 70 percent of girls and women in Pakistan would follow one or more restrictive customs on their periods every month including me.
Can you imagine what this does to the self-esteem and self-confidence of a young girl?
The psychological trauma that this inflicts, affecting her personality, her academic performance and every single aspect of growing up during her early formative years.
During the research, I realized how little I knew about menstruation myself and many of my beliefs turned out to be myths. That’s when we wondered if we, being so well educated, were so ill-informed about menstruation, there would be millions of girls out there who would be ill-informed, too. It is generally believed that menstrual awareness and misconception is a rural phenomenon, during my research, I found that it is as much an urban phenomenon as well and it exists with the educated urban class, also.
While talking to my colleagues and friends I found that many of them wanted to educate girls about periods before they have started getting their menstrual cycle
But they lacked the proper means themselves and since it is a taboo, they feel inhibition and shameful in talking about it.
Girls nowadays get their periods in classes six and seven but our education curriculum teaches girls about periods only in standard eight and nine and since it’s a taboo, teachers still skip the subject altogether. So school doesn’t teach girls about periods, parents don’t talk about it.
Two decades ago and now nothing has changed. I was heard or read a lot of stories. These were stories of experiences of girls during their periods. These stories would make girls curious and interested in talking about menstruation in their close circle. That’s what we wanted. We wanted something that would make the girls curious and drive them to learn about it. We wanted to teach girls about periods and break this taboo. I dream of a future where menstruation is not a curse, not a disease but a welcoming change in a girl’s life and parents if you would be ashamed of periods, your daughters would be, too.so be period positive.