It was my 13th birthday and my aunties and cousins had gathered home for a birthday hi-tea. After I did the cake cutting and everyone wished me Happy Birthday, I realized my aunts were whispering in my mom’s ears – It’s her time, make her understand about it. And my mom reciprocated with an embarrassing grin, saying – I have asked her cousin to talk to her.
I overheard this conversation many times. While this made me happy for all the attention I was getting, I was also curious to know what was this thing.
I am sure by now; you must have guessed it too. Yes, they were talking about Menstruation, menses, periods, monthlies.
Menstruation, a life giving, biological process of our body, yet a taboo in our society. It is so ironical, when a woman is pregnant, has a life inside her, she is pampered, her pregnancy is celebrated but on the other side when the same woman gets her period she is abandoned and almost secluded from the society.
In my 10 years of corporate stint, I realized even the corporate women; the educated, independent and significant lot of our society fail to express openly about this bodily function. They may joke around this topic, may laugh at the code words used for addressing menstruation but the fact remains that they still feel the need to shush around often when talking about periods.
So, coming back to my 13th birthday, and the time arrives when my cousin finally gathers the courage to talk to me and explain about this phenomenon. While I don’t clearly remember about what she told but I do remember her expressions. Throughout she was hesitant and embarrassed. She asked me to always keep it a secret, to not talk about it with anyone, and especially not with my papa and bhai as men are not supposed to know about this at all.
While this episode left a not so good impression about the upcoming phase of my life, I now feel that at least my mother was keen to make me prepared for my first period.
Per few studies – Even today, about 70% of mothers in rural community think that Periods are dirty and impure and sadly they pass on this stigma to their daughters. About half the girls are unaware of their first period and are not prepared. Many girls I spoke to shared they thought they had got some disease.
What does this unpreparedness lead to? Confusion, anxiety, shame, embarrassment, feeling of isolation, loss of confidence, inferiority complex and the list could go on.
Menarche – What could have been a cherished experience for girls becomes a dark memory of their lives that they want to forget about. Having to adhere to societal practices in name of rituals and traditions, feeling as if their wings had been clipped. There’s nothing beautiful about womanhood for them.
However, we all can bring a change in our society. One of the important contribution can be normalizing periods, normalizing conversation about periods and helping to invoke immense confidence in our daughters so they never dread of Periods in their lives like a lot of us did. We must talk to them and assure that Periods is just another biological function of our body, yet important, as important as breathing.
Let’s enable them to celebrate this phase of life…LET’S TALK PERIOD!!!
Well said Anju. I might now be more open about periods with my male friends but colleagues maybe not. But well-meaning change agents like you are creating a lot of sensitization around these conversations and slowly there is a change at some levels in the society…but to change it completely, we all need to do our bit.