So it was Menstrual Hygiene Day (MHD) or (MH Day) two days ago. And to be honest I’m one of those people that wonder if everything had a day or if it was everything that needed to have a particular day set out for a celebration or for a memorial.
But what does the day really stand for?
I heard about it from my friend Joel Mordi from the Mordi Ibe Foundation, yes he is a guy and he knew about menstrual hygiene day before I did but moving on swiftly…
Menstrual Hygiene Day it’s an annual day for awareness created to break the taboos and raise awareness about good Menstrual Hygiene Management for adolescent girls and women around the globe. It was initiated by the German based NGO WASH United ( Water Sanitation and Hygeine) in 2014)
MHD is on the 28th of May not just randomly but because the menstrual cycle lasts 28 days on the average, that is the days between the first day of period and the first day of the next . It is in the month of May because an average period lasts five days. I learnt something new. I got to be more informed about how a lot of girls in developing countries lack access to menstrual hygiene products and use unhygienic materials such as clothes and even leaves which could cause reproductive tract infections.
In addition to that, menstruation which is actually healthy is perceived in some countries as a disease. So women and young girls are not allowed to go to the temple, eat certain foods or be in contact with the male members of their families. Menstrual hygiene day and the supporters are and break these taboos.
These taboos and also with the lack of sanitary products also affect the girl child’s education as some girls drop out of school or miss classes because they are on their periods.
There is also the issue of shame. Some of us are even ashamed to pick up pads from the shop or are afraid to speak about periods.
I’ve been there too. It’s still a process because even when taking the photos I remember telling my friend that I was a bit shy. Lol.
The main thing for me is ignorance, (Hosea 4:6). Knowledge is key, it changes our mentality and the lens through which we see the world and the word of God is the best mirror.
On Sunday was Menstrual Hygeine Day after the long day first at Church then at one phenomenal woman’s birthday party my period started. I couldn’t just take it as a mere coincidence.
So I knew I needed to say something, though I am not a member of WASH united, I am a woman and menstrual hygiene is my business. Was it going to be an experience, a word of advice, a video, I thought to myself, either way it was going to be a story, stories are encompassing. So I’ll share with you,
my menstruation story.
I woke up and saw blood. Blood? Several thoughts went through my mind slowly at the same time rapidly. I was not completely clueless, I still can’t describe how I felt or thought. Surprised is probably closest enough. I had gotten some information along with other young girls in secondary school from nurses and representatives of hygeine companies; that we would see blood. Period talks were full of “mms” and “ahhs” giggles and shy people hiding behind notebooks. I remember some of us looking away when our crushes passed by “they must not know we menstruate” essentially. But, not everyone panics or runs to their mum to share the ‘good’ news of becoming a ‘woman’ or cries because it’s weird and disgusting.
I was a weird child, Yes, like some girls my age and where I come from, I saw periods as something I should be ashamed of, it was one of those ‘hush hush’ matters. Being a Muslim also added injected that idea to my belief system as my mother and my sisters could not go to the mosque during that time of the month. They were “off salat”. I thought of periods as disgusting and irritating. So on the day I saw blood I hid, it was one of those ‘hush hush’ matters, my 10 year old self was filled with more disdain for normalcy.
Tissues were my go-to for months, I never told anyone anything. There were days I walked like someone who didn’t have control of her lower body, right leg here and left leg there. I remember my mother wondering why her daughter walked strangely and I would give silly excuses, like ‘I fell’. I hid, it was one of those ‘hush hush matters’ to me, the kind of things you do not tell anybody.
Summer came and my tissue game was found out. I was at vacation in the busy city of Lagos Nigeria, Ojodu Berger to be precise, dealing with my predicament, dealing with my blood, how I thought or believed was best .
Lagos was really the best place to be found out. Car horns hooting in the traffic, rude drivers playing loud music in their cars, street hawkers displaying goods of which ‘gala and la cassera’ (beef role and apple fizzy drink) was my favourite street meal and also plantain chips or kpekere as we would say. My brother’s house was in a quiet location, I heard him perfectly well that hot afternoon. “Zulaikha” he called loudly. What did I do?, I came out of my room and came to meet him. And there it was, blood stained tissue, held by his thumb and index finger, I swallowed hard, tempted to adapt the disgusted look my brother had on his face or the “ I wonder what this is face” accompanied by an innocent shoulder shrug, I was that mischievous .
Where did all this blood come from?
It was an injury I had on my thigh, my upper thigh. I’m sure he knew I lied.
He told his wife to check the ‘injury’ to see if I needed further medical attention or something along those lines. I told her where I was bleeding from, my vagina. So she gave me a brief talk on how it was my period, that it will come every month, that it was normal and that I needed sanitary towels which she had in abundance. She also offered to teach me how to wear them which I gently declined.
My mum later found out as well, I felt a bit sad that we didn’t have that mother and daughter moment that a lot of my friends had, but I was a weird child.
It was a new chapter for me, this world of sanitary towels; it was definitely more hygienic and much more comfortable. I could move freely. I could go to places without having to wonder if I was “stained”.
Menstruation should not be a secret. I believe when God made us he never intended for us live in shame for any reason. It all boils down to knowledge and a change of mentality, a mind transformation, so that we can transform the world around us for the better.
Today, I stand for menstrual hygiene, for girls wherever they are who are ashamed like I was, who are treated like they have a disease, who have missed classes and dropped out of school. My heart is with you. My heart goes out to people educating and empowering women around the world and even men, not just on menstruation but on health in general. May God bless you.
I pray for every woman around the world, I pray that you first of all know Christ, because only then will you taste what freedom is.
I pray for those that know Christ, may we be empowered to be true leaders and raise a Godly standard and make an impact.
So I am a woman, and yes I bleed, and no I am not ashamed of me because even when I bleed I am beautiful, I am strong and I am free. Menstruation doesn’t stop me!