Imagine waking up in the morning as a teenage girl with blood on your bedding and no idea why it is there. Imagine first your fear, and then your shame and confusion when you ask your mother what is wrong with you and she tells you that this isn’t an appropriate conversation for the home. You likely won’t ask again.
Terhas, 30, is a woman from rural Ethiopia. She has two boys and one girl, who is 11 years old. She says she can’t teach her daughter about menstruation because her daughter is “too shy.”
Fitsmty, 45, has four daughters and one son. She doesn’t “talk about menstruation in the home.” She talks to her daughters about menstruation only when the girls tell her they are bleeding.
These stories are common in rural Ethiopia. Because of the taboo, many girls do not get the information they need to understand and manage menstrual cycles. The silence leads to fear and encourages the feelings of embarrassment and shame; if it’s not spoken about, it must be shameful.
Mothers weren’t taught the basics about menstruation either. Because of this, even if they are willing to talk to their daughters, they often spread myths and misinformation that may be damaging.
How will they learn?
In April of 2016, Dignity Period’s education partner, Mekelle University’s Menstrual Dignity Project, delivered more than 10,000 locally developed educational booklets about menstruation to all students – boys and girls – in 15 Ethiopian schools.
Along with the booklets, students were given an awareness lesson by the team to ensure that the material was understood. Following these sessions, girls in these schools are receiving sanitary products from the Mariam Seba Sanitary Products Factory to help them with menstrual hygiene with the hope that fewer girls will miss days of school because of their periods. It worked. The pilot research results showed a 24% decrease in absences by girls on their period.
Hopefully, some of these girls will have brought this knowledge home with them, to help break through the taboo, allowing all women and girls to manage their periods with dignity.