In recognition of Period Awareness Day, women remember their menarche

In recognition of Period Awareness Day, women remember their menarche

Monday, October 19, 2020

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MENARCHE — the first menstrual period — is a very important milestone in a girl's development. In many ways, both culturally and medically, it signifies that she is developing into a woman in a healthy, normal way.

In an ideal world, each girl's menarche will be a pleasant and exciting experience, and she will understand what is happening to her body, and will be prepared for it and supported through it.

But things are far from ideal where periods are concerned. Menstruation is still shrouded in shame and secrecy, and this stigma puts women and girls at a significant disadvantage when it comes to knowledge about their sexual and reproductive health and access to menstrual products and support.

As such, the local female reproductive health and rights advocacy group HerFlow has declared this coming Saturday to be Period Awareness Day in Jamaica. The aim of this day is to help to break the silence around periods, and increase awareness, and open conversations about periods, so that more women and girls can become educated and equipped to take charge of their bodies.

In celebration of the menstrual period, and acknowledging that more needs to be done to end period stigma and poverty, All Woman asked some women to share how they learned about menstruation, and what their first periods were like.

Genieve, 32, marketing strategist

I had my first period when I was in the fourth grade. I was about nine. I woke up soaked and called my mom frantically to tell her I had been stabbed. She allowed me to stay home from school and helped me clean up. She allowed me to use her supplies and brought me to the store to get my own. We had the period talk, including essentials like hygiene, its possible duration, the cycle, reproduction — the whole works. It lasted about seven days. I came with nagging pain and other classic symptoms. I recall there being plenty of discomfort and it took a while to wrap my mind around menstruating as a pre-teen.

Trev, 24, blogger

I might have learnt from a book I read, or my mom. I don't remember. I was 14 when I got my first. It didn't hurt at all. I was prepared.

April 44, business development manager

It was an embarrassing experience. My mother was telling me about my period from as early as I can remember — and that we could bear children once we started our cycle. I saw my first period at age 14. I remember it being the summer and I was on holidays in the country and when I brought it to the attention of my aunt, she suggested I had fooled around with one of the boys in the community. I had to get a phone to call mommy and tell her I wanted to come home. She took me home and showed me again how to use the napkin and how to dispose of it.

Kiera, 20, digital marketer

I got my period when I was seven. I had no idea what it was. I woke up with my clothes all red and my tummy hurting. I told my grandma, but it didn't even click to her that it was my period because I was so young. She cleaned me up and sent me back to sleep. I woke up back again with the same issue, and that's when it clicked for her, and she explained what was happening to me. I felt like a big woman. I was excited to wear pads and all.

Geena, 25, writer

I grew up with my dad and brothers, so it wasn't something that was ever openly discussed, but I read a lot so by the time my period started when I was 11, I already knew everything about it. I used to just save from my lunch money, then write the name of the pad I wanted on a piece of paper and give it to the shopkeeper, and tell her that someone sent me to buy it. When I turned 13 my dad and I went to the supermarket and for the first time he paused near the period products and told me to read them and pick one and catch up with him when I was done. And after that it was included in the regular grocery shopping. I was just glad to stop using my own money to buy them.

Kristin, 24, graduate student

I learned about it at school. It was a girls' only session in grade four, complete with a video. I was intrigued but embarrassed when the boys tried asking us about the session or tried sneaking peeks into the classroom to find out what we were doing. My first period wasn't as bad as it could've been. I had a lot of abdominal cramping the day before, then it just showed up when I was at home playing. I was 13.

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