'I used my grandmother’s old clothes'
Peace and Moreen's stories
Peace and Moreen share their experiences of getting their period for the first time.
“It happened last year,” says 14-year-old Moreen (above), from Uganda. “I suddenly had blood in my underwear. It even got on my dress. I did not know what was going on with me. Was I ill, perhaps? Where did that blood come from?
“After hesitating for a long time, I decided to tell my mother. She also did not know exactly what it was, but every girl had it, she said. So that made me a little less afraid.”
Moreen’s mother told her that she had to wash and put rags in her knickers.
“I used my grandmother’s old clothes, tore them into strips and put them in my underwear. I soon found out that this only stopped the blood a little bit. It quickly leaked through onto my dress.
"I still don’t really know why I bleed every now and then.”
‘When I am bleeding I don’t go to school’
Peace, 15, knows a little bit about why she bleeds every month.
“At school a teacher told us that girls just bleed. It is called menstruation.” Peace was 14 when it happened for the first time.
“Luckily I was not afraid, because I knew that girls get this. I really don’t like it when it happens. I have a lot of pain in my stomach and I have to wash myself all the time. I put rags in my underwear, but that does not really help much.
“When I am bleeding I don’t go to school. I’m afraid it will get onto my uniform, and that the whole class will laugh.”
Jacinta is a teacher at Moreen and Peace’s school. “Girls from our school who are on their periods often stay home. They feel ashamed. They are afraid they will soil their dresses in the classroom. They have no protection from bleeding.
“Sometimes I call a girl to the front of the class to write something on the chalkboard. But then she says nothing and stays seated. Then I already know what’s happened. I’ll give her a big scarf to tie around her dress and send her home to wash.
"That’s the only thing we can do, because we have no washroom at school. It is better that she stays at home until her period is over.”
‘If I had sanitary pads I could go to school and play’
Peace has heard of sanitary pads. “I know what they are, but I don’t have them myself. My parents can’t give me money to buy them. I saw a poster for Afripad at the market. It is a sanitary pad that you can wash, dry and reuse. It lasts a year, that’s what the poster said.
"I would love to have it, because then I can get water for our family on the days that I’m on my period. And I can run, which is something I like to do. But I don’t know where to buy an Afripad.”
Teacher Jacinta also knows about the Afripad. “It would be good for the children – and for myself – because with pads they can come to school like normal. They would not miss so many lessons.”
Moreen does not know what sanitary pads are, but once it has been explained to her, she is really keen on them.
“If I have blood, I can’t dig in the garden at home. That’s my job at home, but I can’t do it. I think that if I had sanitary pads I would be able to do it. And I could also go to school and play.”