How does one give a Menstrual Hygiene Day salutation? Happy Menstrual Hygiene Day? I dunno. But it’s today and I wanted to put up an article on it so, salute! It’s a special day, and more importantly, it’s a significant day. A day to spotlight menstrual health, hygiene, management, issues and how we can all play a part in making periods a more dignified part of life. Because let’s face it: there is a lot of shame, neglect, pain, disenfranchisement and dismissal when it comes to all menstrual matters. My initial plan for this article was to share some tips on how we can all contribute to changing the crimson tide but I decided to highlight a couple of sisters that are using their voices in one way or another to spread awareness, trigger change, and take back the period power.
Janet Mbugua has always been a champion for women and children. She uses her voice to push for physical/mental health and wellness for us all. She’s now taking things to a policy level when it comes to menstrual health. One small step for woman, one giant leap for womankind! The petition for this #PeriodPolicy #MenstruationMatters campaign Janet has initiated can be found here. Please sign it if you haven’t already. Once this becomes part of our national agenda, we will finally be able to see a real impact. We can all do our small parts here and there but this way, we will see a more sustainable approach to all menstrual hygiene problems we face as a nation. Remember, women’s rights are human rights. We must not be left on the wayside. Thank you Janet for taking this up.
Jess is a self-proclaimed endo warrior and menstrual health advocate. I’ve known Jess for quite a few years and I had no idea what she was going through every single month until she started educating me on endometriosis. What a revelation! You can find some of Jess’ endo education on her Instagram page here and her blog here. She was kind enough to share a “period piece” (below) for me as a guest writer for this article.
Growing up, having your period was ideally a rite of passage, it meant you are now a grown up, to be honest, it was a nice feeling to know you are normal because God forbid that you get yours way after all your friends (late bloomers had it hard). I am not so sure if anyone prepared us for all the duties that came with getting your period you know… playing with innocent boys raised eyebrows, “Ulikua unafanya nini Mike? Hujui vijana wanataka tu kitu moja?” these comments became more common, “you are now a grown lady, you should know how to cook chapatis, when I was your age I was raising my siblings” well, my mum was extra.
No one however is ever prepared for the emotional, psychological and physical responsibilities that come with getting your periods, the societal fear is mostly about you not getting pregnant than how to live with this blessing that can at times become a curse.
Away from the medical challenges that ladies face when it comes to the red robots, we also have another challenge which is menstrual hygiene management. I remember when we were in high school we had various guests who would come and give us free sanitary towels from Always as they taught us about how to use them, how to dispose them etc I would say we were among the compact majority who were lucky to get this.
Imagine that there is a girl who is experiencing debilitating period pain, with no access to proper sanitation and having to miss school due to these and more challenges.
So today, as we mark the world menstrual hygiene day let us break the silence, raises awareness and change negative social norms around MHM.
When I planned my initial article, the one image I kept seeing in my mind was the period depiction from Lyra Aoko’s RED series (02). I still remember seeing the images for the first time and being amazed. Amazed at how raw it was. How mesmerizingly raw it was. To have periods visualized the way she did. In RED and unabashedly . . . not the blue that we have been sensitized to and sanitized with in mainstream media when it comes to all things periods. This was definitely a woman’s work. An unapologetic, strong woman who had something to say and was not going to be shamed out of it or to make it more palatable. Artistic, not apologetic. See for yourself here. It’s what I’ve used as the feature image for this article because it really strikes a chord. Thank you for this Lyra!
It’s hard out here for a woman . . . harder still for a girl. Let’s play whatever part we can to make it easier for our sisters and each other because periods are a part of our lives. They’re not going anywhere . . . well, until they do. And even then, it’s never that simple. Let’s be our sisters’ keepers. Let’s educate and elevate each other – I’m talking about men too. This Menstrual Hygiene Day, let’s set the intention to do more.