Breaking the Silence on Menstruation – Blog

Date: 25th May 2016

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This article was written by Kamini Prakash, Technical Officer for Equality and Non-Discrimination at WSSCC. For feedback and questions, please send an e-mail to kamini.prakash@wsscc.org.

Learning to use “As We Grow”. Credit: WSSCC/Anthony Dedouche

Learning to use “As We Grow”. Credit: WSSCC/Anthony Dedouche

WSSCC facilitated trainings of 30 minutes each at the Women Deliver 2016 conference in Copenhagen.  The objective of these sessions was to give participants an idea of how WSSCC breaks the silence on MHM and the tools developed for this purpose.

The sessions took place inside the WSSCC MHM tent, which provides a safe space for women and young girls to learn about menstruation, share their experiences and support each other.   Each session was limited to a small group of 10 – 15 women.  Eighty-one women from more than 25 countries participated in these sessions.   While most of them worked for international agencies or CSOs, there were also midwives, researchers, students and social entrepreneurs.   While the tent is reserved for women only, men were also included in discussions outside the tent.

The session started by creating a safe and intimate space where participants could talk about the first time they started to menstruate.  What were the emotions they experienced?  Who had they turned to?  How did they react?   Participants shared their experiences freely and every one in this intimate circle could relate to these experiences – even though they came from very different cultures.   A participant from Venezuela spoke about the embarrassment she faced when she stained her father’s favorite white sofa the first time she menstruated.  Another participant from Pakistan, a wheelchair user, shared how her mother cried when she heard her daughter had started menstruating because she did not know how she would cope.   Others shared how frightened and bewildered they were when they attained menarche.   The tent was filled with laughter, but also empathy and incredulity that although women menstruate for approx.3000 days or 8 years of their life, this issue continues to be taboo across the globe, in every country.

Participants also learnt how to use the WSSCC flipbook and menstrual wheel to explain the physical changes that boys and girls experience during adolescence and the menstrual flow.   They got an opportunity to see a range of sanitary materials  – both recyclable and disposable materials – including the menstrual cup, learn the do’s and don’ts of managing menstruation hygienically and discussed different disposal options.   Since many of them were practitioners they also shared their experiences in the field, challenges and different products that are available.

Some of the questions they had:

  • Why do we experience pain when we menstruate and what can we do about it?
  • What do we do if we bleed continuously for 10 days? Is it normal?
  • What about menopause and the changes that take place in a woman’s body then?
  • Is it ok to have sex when you are menstruating?
  • How do you combat myths and misconceptions around menstruation?

The honest and open sharing and exchange of experiences helped to clarify doubts and by the end of the session, women who had entered the tent as strangers, left as sisters, connected through their common experiences of menstruation. They adorned their WSSCC bracelet with pride and took the pledge to break the silence around menstruation.

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