This morning I passed by the supermarket, picked my snack and dashed to the till. The supermarket is usually short of staff in the mornings, so one or two counters are functional.
There was a queue on this single counter, which provided time to notice contents of people’s shopping baskets. I noticed among other things, the lady standing before me was carrying two cans of yoghurt and a double pack of Always sanitary pads. My attention was not drawn to the yoghurt; it was captured by the latter.
Just then, I realized that the secrecy with which we handle matters menstruation, and reproduction is in fact due to social conditioning. It does exist even in ladies. Evidently- it happened to me. I am a lady, I use these things, so why the cringe?
Do you remember the first time you asked a question about menstruation as a child? I do. At the age of nine. I asked a cousin of mine who was preparing cotton wool and wrapping them in tissue paper, what the things were for. She said, “you will know when you grow up”. Because I grew up knowing how to avoid topics that made people uncomfortable, I did not pursue it further.
I only came to have an idea what those cotton wrappings were for in class seven, when a team from Always came to our school to educate us on menstrual hygiene. They even gave us free sanitary pads, preparing us for puberty. Even late bloomers like myself were covered. I used my free hamper four years later.
My first time buying myself sanitary pads, further enforced the belief that those were things to be handled discreetly. I remember the teller at the supermarket wrapping it nicely with a newspaper, before placing it in a paper bag. This was a well-meaning teller, careful to save a teenage me from embarrassing stares. So, the contents of my shopping bag had to be concealed.
I wonder though why they didn’t find it necessary to wrap other consumables like milk or soap using newspapers and cello tape first.
Many girls do not get the privilege of getting the grand lesson of puberty from their parents because the topic is rather uncomfortable. These parents do not know how to broach the sensitive topic of sexuality. It is not their fault though; it is a generational thing. These have always been taboo subjects that are relegated to teachers.
We need to be more open about uncomfortable matters. This is why Always have been running the #AlwaysStandUpKe campaign, to encourage women to share stories of standing up for what they believe in. Well I believe in changing firmly held perceptions, by treating normal things like puberty and sexuality with ease, because they are normal milestones.
You can now stand up and keep a girl in school by dropping your donations of sanitary pads at any Nakumatt or Naivas supermarket branch.
I have a gift hamper from Always. What is your experience dealing with the issue of menstruation? Do you have a girl who you’d like to nominate to receive the gift hamper? Give us the stories on the comments section and we will select the winner. To qualify for the giveaway, you have to comment by Wednesday 6th April, 2016.