#MenstrualNarratives: The Story of Catherine (23 years old, Lusaka, (Gambia)) ” It started in class and I had no one to tel”

Its was so painful and so scarery It started in class and I had no one to tel I just talked to my mum about it and she went and tel my grand mother’s.

#MenstrualNarratives: The Story of Vaish (17 years old, Chennai (India)) “I knew very vaguely about menstruation…. I remember crying and telling my dad that I was bleeding. I also remember hugging him while he tried to explain that it was normal”


I got my first period in 2011 in February. It was around 9pm when I was watching TV at home when I first start menstruating. My mom wasn’t in town when I got my first period.

I remember seeing blood stains in my underwear and panicking. At first, I thought that I would just tell my mom when she came back two days later. Soon, I realised the blood flow would only increase. I knew very vaguely about menstruation but didn’t know details like why or how it happened. I remember crying and telling my dad that I was bleeding. I also remember hugging him while he tried to explain that it was normal.

While my mom and my aunt (who lived close by) were being informed, I remember my brother and dad discussing menstruation in front of me. I was so… shocked? Mostly because I didn’t know that men knew about it and that it was okay to speak about it openly. When my aunt came home that night and showed me how to wear a pad and fasten it to my underwear, I remember thinking how strange it all was. And how my life was about to completely change.

Over the next few days, when my mom returned, I was made to follow all the family traditions. For example, I had to sit away from everyone in a separate space and wasn’t allowed to touch anyone.

On the fifth day, I took part in a pooja (religious ritual) and my first period was over. I got to know more about menstruation in the following days and later at school. But one thing for sure, I was glad it was not a taboo topic at home and that everyone in my family were kind, understanding and cool about it!

Thank you, 2018. Welcome, 2019.


Happy New Year!

Thank you for being part of our story in 2018. This past year was filled with growth, reflections, and gratitude. In 2018, we:

  • Expanded our #MenstrualNarratives survey to include three additional languages ( Spanish, French, and German). We collaborated with @TaleWeavers and the @TheRed Elephant Foundation to co-develop #Menstroo; a storybook  on menstruation to help promote dialogue on the topic. If you are interested in sharing your story on your first menstrual experience or know of teachers/students who may benefit from our storytelling approach to de-stigmatizing menstruation, please use any of the forms below and reach out to us– we are happy to provide guidance on this topic!
  • Started the pilot for our mentor-mentee program and currently have participants in East Africa. The primary goal of this program is to connect young people on the African continent with mentors from their hometown/country  who work in Africa and also have connections to the Diaspora via business/school/families. Mentors check-in with Mentees at least once a month to share ideas and brainstorm on issues of interest to the mentees. LEPA also connects both parties to professional/career development opportunities, including small-business development programs, scholarships, fellowships, and grants based on the interests of both parties. We believe that using this framework may help improve youth employability and mitigate brain-drain. If you are interesting in participating in this program as a mentor or mentee, please reach out to us via email: lepainitiative@gmail.com
  • Started college application support groups for first-generation college/university students applying to U.S. universities in 2018. Experienced writers/students/Alumni from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) provided guidance on essay drafts and provided valuable feedback to prospective students. We look forward to continuing this tradition in 2019.

In 2019, we intend to continue building on these successes while strengthening our collaborations with organizations that support our work. We also look forward to improving our mentor-mentee program, and starting scholarship projects focused on small-business development and STEM-ARTS. We look forward to your continued support virtually and in-real-life.

Forward, together!



#MenstrualNarratives Storytelling Campaign 2018



We are hosting another round of #MenstrualNarratives storytelling campaign in conjunction with the Red Elephant Foundation and Tale Weavers  #NoMoreWhispers project. We have learned that storytelling can be a powerful tool to demystify false narratives about menstruation and reduce the stigma associated with #Periods. It is also a critical way to build allyship while creating safe and inclusive spaces for young people around the world. We want to create more opportunities to open dialogue around menstruation and to share stories and experiences.

For this round, we’ve added language support in Spanish, German, English, and French. We welcome your stories in these languages, while we build additional language support in Yoruba, Twi, Swahili, Hausa,  Igbo, Wolof, Pulaar, Hindi, Amharic, and Tigrinya.

Please use this form to share stories on your first #MenstrualExperience in:

Also, if you are an educator and would like training on how to facilitate discussions in the classroom on menstrual health which also include an introduction to reproductive health and healthy relationships, please reach out to us via email (lepainitiative@gmail.com & info@redelephantfoundation.org) or twitter (@LEPA_Initiative & @TheRedElephnt). Our team is ready to help ease these conversations using culturally sensitive and age-appropriate conversations.

Alternatively, we also host workshops and webinars and we would be happy to come on board and explore potential platforms to engage with communities on menstruation and menstrual hygiene.

For an archive of #MenstrualNarratives, please visit https://lepainitiative.org/our-voices-together-as-one/

For more information on #NoMoreWhispers, please visit


To engage with children on Menstruation, do read our story- Menstroo


In Solidarity,

Deborah Dauda


Can the Postpartum Doula Care Model Improve a Mother’s Psychosocial Wellbeing, and Responsiveness in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs)?

Sustainable feminist futures begin with a healthy birth, an empowered woman and an informed society.  Birth is a feminist issue and a Doula’s core practice is enshrined in the feminist framework that ensures women have the right and control over where, when, and how to give birth. We can’t begin to speak of, or envision a just future of equality, rights and justice for women and families without confronting and dismantling economic and political structures that nurture disparities and inequalities in maternal and child health outcomes in communities of color around the world, especially in Africa and Diaspora communities-Deborah Dauda.

The post below also appears on WorldPulse.Com

Childbirth is a bittersweet experience for many mothers. It can bring joy, happiness, and satisfaction to the home. It can also be challenging, overwhelming and stressful, especially in the context of poor social and physical support networks.  The sound of a baby crying can cause significant stress for a mother ill-equipped to soothe her child. By extension, the type of response the crying child receives from the mother (i.e. holding to feed vs. letting baby “cry it out”) can influence a child’s sense of trust or mistrust. Maternal sensitivity (also known as maternal responsiveness[1]) is the ability of a mother to respond in a timely and appropriate manner to the cue of her child. It is a critical component of the maternal caregiving system[2] and has also been positively associated with mother-infant interaction, attachment and children’s cognitive development[3]’[4].

Historically, through different cultural practices and rituals, pregnant women received free physical and social support during and after childbirth from a community of women, and their families through a process called social birth7. Research by Stern & Kruckman (1983), suggests that postpartum rituals and psychosocial support available to women in non-western settings, for example, among the Ibibio (Nigeria), Punjabi (India), and Mayan (Yucatan) women, contributes to the lower incidence of postpartum mood disorders[5].

Today, in the U.S., the Doula embodies this role as someone who is experienced and professionally trained to provide non-clinical support to the birthing mother, and family, according to their respective needs and wishes[6]. Doulas who help during childbirth are called birth doulas and those who facilitate the transition into parenthood are called postpartum doulas.  Investigations by Eschel et al., (2006), Zeanah, Stafford, & Zeanah, (2005), and Cooper et al., (2002) show that professionals and trained lay-person (s) can facilitate maternal responsiveness. These studies and others have yet to explore the postpartum Doula care model as an integrated framework that could work in tandem with a mother’s clinical team to mitigate psychosocial stressors associated with the postpartum period. Preliminary studies have shown promising outcomes on maternal-child relationship in western societies utilizing a doula care model in childbirth but not in their non-western counterpart, perhaps due to the lack of empirical data, or poor institutional support for this type of practice. For example, review of twelve randomized clinical trials by Scott K., Klaus P., & Klaus M., (1999) substantiates evidence that the benefits of a Doula supported childbirth extends into the postpartum period, through increased rates and duration of breastfeeding, improved self-esteem, decreased symptoms of depression[7], and increased maternal sensitivity.  In addition, an observational study conducted by McComish & Visger’s (2009) reflects the benefits of the postpartum care model in facilitating maternal capacity and responsiveness in the areas of feeding, attachment and integrating the child into the family.

Since studies amongst impoverished communities in industrialized countries already demonstrate that Doulas help improve birth and psychosocial outcomes[8], contextualizing, and operationalizing this model to fit into an ecological framework for Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs), especially in Africa can prove useful in achieving dignity in maternity and motherhood, while increasing the possibilities of achieving promises of the post-2015 development agenda.


[1] McComish J., & Visger J., (2009). Domains of Postpartum Doula Care and Maternal Responsiveness and Competence. JOGNN 38(2).

[2] Pechtel, P., et al., (2013). Reactivity Regulation, and Reward Responses to Infant Cues Among Mothers With or Without Psychopathology: An fMRI Review. Translational Developmental Psychiatry (1).

[3] Eshel N., et al., (2006). Responsive Parenting: Intervention and Outcomes. World Health Organization.

[4] Farsi M., & McCarroll E., (2010). Crying Babies: Answering the Call of Infant Cries.

[5] Stern G., & Kruckman L., (1983). Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Postpartum Depression: An Anthropological Critique. Social Science and Medicine 17(15).

[6] Placksin S. (2000). Mothering The New Mother: Women’s Feeling and Needs After Childbirth. Newmarket Press.

[7] Scott K., Klaus P., & Klaus M., (1999). The Obstetrical and Postpartum Benefits of Continuous Support During Childbirth. Journal of Women’s Health & Gender-Based Medicine 8(10).

[8] Gruber K., Cupito S., & Dobson C., (2013). Impact of Doulas on Healthy Birth Outcomes. Journal of Perinatal Education 22(1).


#MenstrualNarratives: The Story of Neelam (38yo, Los Angeles (USA) ): “She told me that the first three days I was considered impure and couldn’t go to the temple or touch the altar in our home. This information didn’t really jive with my new found superpowers, but I didn’t say anything.”

My mom is an obgyn so I grew up with her magazines laying about and her speaking to patients over dinner about vaginal discharge. Still, I felt unprepared. She told me what was coming but it seemed unreal, especially the bleeding part. I remember by breasts forming, the acne, and my labia growing. At the time, I thought my enlarged labia meant I had super powers! I never told anyone but I held on to the belief… And who knows, I was probably right!

The day my period came I was home with my dad. Mom was working and so I had to tell him. He became flustered and immediately called my mom to come home. I had flashbacks to the incredibly outdated video we watched in school about tying napkins to menstrual belts. Why were we watching a video about menstrual belts?? I guess being informed and feeling prepared wasn’t the goal of that particular educational movie.

My mom came home twenty minutes later. I waited for her in the bathroom. She seemed excited as she helped me put on my first pad (a very large monstrosity). Then her face turned grave and she said I could get pregnant now. I’m not sure I fully understood but I nodded. Then she told me that the first three days I was considered impure and couldn’t go to the temple or touch the altar in our home. This information didn’t really jive with my new found superpowers, but I didn’t say anything. Getting to stay home from trips to the temple seemed like a good thing at the time. More time to attend to the very serious business of recording my own MTV show and practicing to be Janet Jackson’s back up dancer.
We left the bathroom and the day proceeded at usual. But it wasn’t just any other day. The world had changed for me and I couldn’t wait to tell my friends!

#MenstrualNarratives: The Story of Ukhengching (21yo, Chittagong, Bangladesh) “we could not think to share this thing with our male teachers. In My Family I am so lucky that this thing is not stigmatized “

My first menstrual cycle experience was not bad as i was taught by my mother and she is nurse. She first taught me when i was in class 6 about this fact which every girl has to experience. That day i was in school and i was in class 7,i felt something wet in my underwear and i rushed into bathroom. Then i saw that ! But i was not freaked out and i went to my female teacher to take permission. During that time we could not think to share this thing with our male teachers. In my family i am so lucky that this thing is not stigmatized. I have seen my aunties who are not allowed to cook and touch any food during this time because they think they become impure this time. I think this condition about being impure or stigma about mensuration should be changed.

#MenstrualNarratives: The Story of Irene (58yo, Durban, South Africa) “My mother however was not as open as my Dad and she did have certain prejudices towards menstruation that it was something to be borne and endured and it was a hassle”


I remember having a very serious talk with my dad about the special gift that ladies had to give to a man and that was one’s virginity. I remember then getting into discussion about sex and pregnancy and babies and marriage, but I was not yet menstruating. However I did have an older sister with whom I shared a bedroom so I had first hand experience of her first menstrual period.

So when it came to mine although it was a shock and I felt afraid of what was happening to my body I had a sister, mother and father with whom I could talk. My mother however was not as open as my Dad and she did have certain prejudices towards menstruation – that it was something to be borne and endured and it was a hassle and men were more fortunate that women etc.

It was a scarey experience but I was able to get support and assistance both at home and at school so the adjustment was quick and easy.

However, much later on in life I came across a book that suggested a totally different perspective on the menstrual cycle in that one should celebrate one’s fertility and it had a prayer that one could say in thanksgiving for the privilege of being able to be fertile. If I can find it I will share it on this site.

#MenstrualNarratives-The Story of Abee (25yo, Trincomalee, Sri Lanka) “I told to mother when I got my first menstruation and of course it was a celebration in my society”

According to my community, the age of 16 was too late to get menstruation. Therefore, I have already aware of menstruation from my mother’s instruction and it was a part of my education in intermediate level. I told to mother when I got my first menstruation and of course it was a celebration in my society. I was not allowed to see any men from outside and I was not allowed to go out for a month. I kept in side my room and fed by healthy and nutrition food. Then after a month. I had puberty ceremony, where so many relatives attended.

The Story of SK ( 22yo, Cambodia; Siem Reap) “mother was telling me to use old shorts to block it. She didn’t get me a pad. It was somehow expensive to her”

The experience was not great. I remember I knew what is was called and that only females have it. That’s all. 
I wasn’t prepared and when I first had it at home, my mother was telling me to use old shorts to block it. She didn’t get me a pad. It was somehow expensive to her and she said if we used clothes, we could wash it and use it again in the future. “Pad, use one and dispose one. Such a waste,” her exact words. 

It felt very uncomfortable. I really hope there are more raising-awareness programs to educate girls at remote areas to be well-prepared and not having the same experience like mine.