We never spoke about getting my period
Peninah, 13, from Uganda shares her story of getting her first period. The unknown of what was happening to her body was a scary experience. But now, thanks to health, hygiene, and menstruation lessons at school, Peninah has found confidence in managing her periods.
“I was twelve years old when I had my first period. I didn’t know what was happening to me: Was there something wrong with me? I didn’t dare talk about it to my aunt, who I live with.
“I had to protect myself as I was bleeding. I didn’t want anyone to see it. That is why I would put old rags and toilet paper in my underwear. But that didn’t help for very long. It often leaked and then my dress was soiled.
“One time the dress of one of the girls in my class was covered in blood. Everybody started laughing and pointing at her.
“When I was at home I stayed inside. I didn’t dare to play outside or dance, something I really like to do.
“The rags were really uncomfortable in my underwear, so I couldn’t help at home. Normally I fetch water or wash my nieces. Luckily my aunt understood and allowed me to stay in bed.
“Now we have lessons in health, hygiene and menstruation. In the lessons we talk about the changes in the bodies of boys and girls.
“I also heard about sanitary towels for the first time, and that it is important to keep clean when you are on your period.
“I also talk about it with the girls next door. Some hear the craziest stories from their parents. That a cassava plant will die if you stand next to it when you’re on your period, for instance. Or that you should not cook for your father during your period because he would die. I tell them that nothing about that is true. “