Who Told You About Periods?

I like the title of this blog because well who did tell you about periods? Did we as females have any education around it? Did our families prepare us for it? Did we have to learn ourselves? In my blog I always keep it real. It’s important to express how you feel.

I am a volunteer and soon an ambassador for Binti International a charity very close to my heart. There are many reasons why I joined over 3 years ago now. I love their motto and what they stand for. They do what they say on the tin. I am also a trained menstrual trainer. Which means I can go into schools and other places to educate the youth about menstrual dignity. Binti are paving the way. The Binti revolution are here to ensure that every girl has menstrual dignity. Period. They were the first registered period charity in the UK and India. Binti currently works in India, Africa, UK and the US to achieve these goals. Whilst their mission varies somewhat depending on the cultural context, access, education and de-stigmatisation are essential all over the world.

By donating £5 is enough for girls in India and Africa to have pads at their disposal. Try to imagine starting your period and having no access to menstrual products. I have been doing this since I found about Binti. Around 12% of girls aged between 12-21 years old in the UK have not been able to afford them. Whilst in India its about 89%. Girls in Africa drop out of school when they begin their periods. We now have seen the “Tampon Tax” being abolished.

I sat down recently and actually thought about my first period yes as weird as that may sound; I remembered the lack of education I received about it. It got me thinking and I decided to put into words in my blog. I went to a school back in 1995 and I felt the sex education wasn’t really taught properly. No way was I prepared for my period. The sex education was non-existent. Girls were embarrassed. They didn’t want to talk about it. It was a like a dirty secret. I remember hiding my pad under my sleeve or the back of my jeans pocket. I also know and have seen women whisper to other females if they have a spare pad. Why do we still feel this way?

I wish women felt more comfortable about this. But I really feel its men that make women feel ashamed. Women are made to feel dirty. I mean children are born through vaginas and a period is a taboo? It’s just mind boggling.

I started when I was 12. I remember being so scared. I didn’t really know what was happening to me or to my body. I just saw that my knickers were full of blood and I thought am I dying? What is happening to me? The funny thing about that was when my mum experienced her period. She thought she was dying also. She had no clue my nani didn’t teach her anything and had to learn herself. That is such a shame that she had to experience that alone. But her older auntie told her briefly what happens. It was a subject that was really not spoken about.

I went and spoke to my mum who was just told me it was a period. It happens every month. These are sanitary towels. Make sure you every 4 hours and gave me a nappy bag to put used sanitary towels in. I just remembered feeling so overwhelmed. I sat on the toilet thinking what the hell. Another thing a woman has to worry about. I am the only girl and I have 3 brothers so I had no sister to talk too. My friends hadn’t started in school so I couldn’t talk to them. I felt super alone. I felt my body changing.  I had no one. I think education is needed to help females through this. That this is normal. This is something we have to go through. 

It really got me thinking about what other women’s experiences were. So I asked a few women who agreed to tell me their experiences anonymously. That in itself made me realise this is still a taboo subject.

Person 1

I started my period when I was 9! I was excited to see what starting a period was, because I knew my sister had been having them. I think I knew about it through my sister and mom. When I started though I was at a wedding and I cried. I felt like I was growing up!

Person 2

So I was 9 years old and in Year 5. I remember going to the toilet and seeing some spotting. I remember feeling a little scared as I didn’t really understand what was going on and I thought I might be very unwell as in my mind I thought that my period would come later. Obviously sex education lessons were few and far between and I remember they said they would happen when I was 13/14. I remember the tampon demonstration you know when they dip it in the glass of water. I was like ‘not a chance’. So I called mum and she gave me a pad. She was really reassuring but matter of fact about it. It felt like a rite of passage I wasn’t really for. I didn’t really share it with anyone at school as I think I was embarrassed. I was the only one using the toilet with the sanitary bin in there. And I was really nervous about the sound of my pad. My periods were really heavy. I felt self conscious in case I had leaked in my underwear when changing for PE. I remember having the most painful and intense stomach cramps. I think in reference to who told you what they were. I knew about them from school from SHIT sex education classes. My Mother confirmed when mine started and what I should do. But I remember feeling alone with the rest. No one shares the things you and your body experience along the way. But in our house, we were very open and free with conversations about our bodies, our identity and protecting ourselves as young women. So whilst we fumbled through those awkward period experiences, I had a good sense of my body and me as growing woman, which I have cherished and thank Mum for.

Mum said she felt so sad for me and my sister when we came on. She felt like it had come too soon for us.  My mum wanted us to have more time being children rather than worrying about periods

Person 3

I started late at 16
It was a moment of finally I’ve started as my peer group girls had already started
I had to read up on girl magazines. My mum never told me.

Person 4

I started my period at 13. I had been told about it from my mum and older sisters but when it happened to be honest I was mortified. I suffered from horrendous period pains so made it a lot worse for me. I would literally spend two days curled up in pain so the whole ordeal was awful for years and years.

Person 5

I started my period at 11. So I felt like it was really early for me. I was in the bath and realised blood was on my leg and I didn’t know what was happening, I thought I had cut myself. I couldn’t see where it was coming from. So I cried as I had no idea what was happening. But my sisters are older and came in and told me what a period was and what will happen. But our school was really good. They taught us about hormones and changes a woman goes through.

Person 6

I started at 10. No one told me. I had to learn myself. I had no one to speak too.

*****************************************************************************

As you can see some of the females I spoke to their stories are different. But the pattern is the same. The education around periods is terrible. No one really knew what they were and was terrified when it happened. I sat and thought about it. When you go into a toilet are there any facilities for women to be able to get a sanitary towel? I can’t tell you how many times I have started and I wasn’t carry one and  I am out and I have to go buy some as the place I was in didn’t have any machines. Yet men have condoms available in a machine for them! That really ticks me off. It makes me feel that women are second class citizens.  In my work place there are no facilities for women. Nothing! I know in many work places this is the case. Changes need to be made.

Menstrual pads should be available to all women. I want to see pads available in our places of work. I have never seen that in my place of work. I would love to see more people talk about this subject it is so important. We should not feel ashamed. I am lucky as my husband has no issues he is also a huge supporter of Binti. My husband gets my pads if i need them. I have spoken to my brothers and there are 3 of them and I am the oldest. I told them the importance of when they welcome their daughters in the world that they must have education around this and not to make them feel ashamed.

I am lucky that I come from a open family where we talk about everything. I openly discuss these topics with them. Why shouldn’t we?

We have to move past that this is a taboo subject.

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