Menses; A Passage Rite Into Womanhood.

“Excuse me maám, your pants are stained”. This was what a concerned person walking the streets told a woman that had no notice of the red patch on her skirt.

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Internet Photo

Her reaction was shock, fright and later plight. If you have been in a place where you needed to feel all these emotions in a split second, you would know you have encountered embarrassment. Nothing eats at self-esteem like embarrassment. It is a painful claw at the heart, at your perspective, and more often holds you back from experiencing the best out of life.

That and even more than language may not permit me to explain is what a grown woman feels once they are embarrassed— What about a young enthusiastic girl standing up to speak their answer and boom– red patch on the back of her skirt, and the first reaction her fellow students are drawn to do is —Laugh?

#FACT: Girls drop out of school, and will most likely will develop a dislike for education if their unfortunate experience with their monthly flow is exposed to the public.

I have often wondered if I would attend school again, if once I stood up with a red stain at the back of my skirt and the boys behind me burst into laughter. Brings us back to the 360 starting point that is Embarrassment.

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Picture Courtesy; Reach A Hand, Uganda

In my opinion, Menstruation as part of the sexual and reproductive health and rights agenda is not given as much attention as unprotected sex is… For some reason, much focus seems to be given to pregnancy and the “ABC” model of Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (ASRHR). And I say this because up until now, I have never understood the menstrual cycle, yet I attended all classes where reproduction was taught, went ahead to have Biology in my advanced level and still I can’t fully understand how the menstrual cycle of a woman works.

You may be wondering how then I know about my days, or how I could be so dumb and ignorant, Maybe just maybe but I am aware of girls and women who notice their monthlys only after they start to feel the discomfort that comes along with it.

So when I came across a call to write about what can be done to combat the already worrying situation surrounding Menstrual hygiene, and what can be done about it, I didn’t hesitate taking up the challenge.

For starters, Menstruation is when blood and tissue from your uterus comes out of your vagina. … Your menstrual cycle helps your body prepare for pregnancy every month. … Your menstrual cycle and period are controlled by hormones like estrogen and progesterone. When this time comes, girls then start to attach sanitary pads to their nickers in order to maintain self-hygiene. 

The changes to better help girls beat the expense that comes with maintaining their hygiene is that we have individuals, organizations and companies get into manufacturing sustainable solutions— Re-usable sanitary towels. They can be used, washed and used once again.

I decided to write a letter instead, because regardless of how we try to publicize menstruation without giving girls and women reason to love the period where their uterus sheds, then we haven’t done much really.

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Picture Courtesy; Reach A Hand, Uganda

Dear beautiful you,

You must be wondering, (that is if you don’t yet know) what menses means. I have since decided that the world and new slang will not leave me at risk of being called ancient. I am not ancient, and neither do I want to walk away from this place without letting you know what menses means.

Menses is the simplified way to say Menstruation in these millennial days. I guess whoever came up with the term was bored with how long and unwelcome the word had seemed to them. So they decided to create menses out of menstruation because that is how cool evolves into itself, from uncool.

You must be at a low place at this point and I don’t blame you one bit. I have been there too. My friends had their menses at age 12, some even earlier while the rest of us took longer, they came at 14 and for others at 16. It tore at our hearts making us wonder whether we were abnormal. But what we should have been told is that there is no specific age to things that happen to girls, because every girl’s system is different. We weren’t told that, and so we moved with bent heads, soar minds and weary hearts.

In my day, when we gathered on each other’s beds in our dimly lit corridors, we sought to find out what we had learned from our mothers, the others were bold to state many things to their anatomy. I boldly claimed my mother had taught me ruthlessly me about the flow. I weaved a lie I knew not how to end, and some of the facial expressions from my listeners were doubtful as I narrated my incomplete knowledge on menstruation. And I have found that the failure to adequately educate girls about their own anatomy and physiology has serious implications, because what I weaved came from a place of inexperience but God knows how many of those believed it.

From what I learned however, Most girls had talked about menstruation with their mothers, but few had discussed it with their fathers. They saw mothers as critically important but often unable to meet their needs. Many girls felt uncomfortable talking about menstruation with fathers, wanting them to be supportive but silent; others believed that fathers should be excluded completely. This makes me want to tell you, speak to whoever you are comfortable with. It is not a rule that it should be your mother you speak to about your menses, tell your father if he is most accessible. Fathers, too want to feel part and very parcel of the growth of their daughters, of you— and if you know men, you know he would exaggerate and pamper the process for you.

Most importantly, may you treasure menstruation. It is your passage rite into womanhood. A bleeding woman is a strong woman because she has been chastised by her own body. At all times, may you know that Menstruation is a normal, natural event, and it should never be hidden. May your attitude and esteem not be negatively biased into self-objectification, or body shame. Be proud to have your menses every month, and this is the bitter truth, sometimes they will roughen you up to the very extent that you can not recognize yourself, they will have you wade through the valley of the shadow of death, but the beauty is that even if you come out looking as ashy as a ghost, you will be alive, and well, and your body cleaner.

When this happens, teach your friends rightly, be eager to speak to your daughters and sons at the earliest, and have them look forward to this crowning moment throughout their lifetime.

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Picture Courtesy; Reach A Hand Uganda

I love you

Yours,

Elder Sister

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