Menstrual Narratives: The Story of MaDube (40yo, Harare): “I tore the centre page of my exercise book and crushed it and used it to absorb blood”

I was in primary school in grade 7. I did not tell anyone. I had been told that people who have blood coming from underneath there have been naughty with boys. I was scared. I was not prepared for it. I was afraid boys would laugh at me as was the case with others who had had their menses at school. I tore the centre page of my exercise book and crushed it and used it to absorb blood. I remember how i smelled during that time. I stayed away from everyone. I did not play sport. I faked illness the next few days to skip school. The trick worked the first month, in subsequent months mother forced me to go to school thinking i just didnt want to go to school. She didnt know what i was going through, she was a busy woman, widow, left home very early and came back home after dark as she worked as a house help. I had abdominal and back pain. I was afraid of telling anyone because it was associated with sleeping around, children were not supposed to have backache. I used crushed newspaper till the following year when i went to boarding school and could afford to buy myself cotton wool using my pocket money. This meant that I could not buy myself biscuits and sweets like other children as I had to save money for cotton wool. I did not tell anyone I was menstruating for two years. My mother discovered that I was menstruating when she found a soiled pantie I had hidden under the bed one time and I was beaten for that. I could not tell my siblings why I was beaten because I was afraid they would find out I am menstruating and think I have been sleeping around. I did not know what menstruation meant as I had not been told about it. I leant about it at school in biology lessons.

Menstrual Narratives: The Story of Blackbeauty (28yo, Accra): My mum was so happy… She offered [me] a boiled egg

I remember being a little anxious because most of my friends had started menstruating and I hadn’t. It was a bit of a taboo subject in my family, we never really talked about it. One day in middle school I went to the bathroom and discovered blood in my panties. I didn’t know what to do, so I stuffed a lot of toilet paper in my pants. I walked out of the cubicle, terrified that all the bloodied tissue will fall out for everybody to see. I was relieved when the day was over and I went home. My mum was so happy when I told her. She offered my a boiled egg, I wasn’t sure what the significance was, but I said “no, thank you” politely.

The Story of Phillomen N. (31yo, Uganda): My Sister Called and asked if I was Raped, I was so Embarrassed.

I applaud the 28th May initiative and ask God to permanently break the silence. 
My 1st menstrual experience was a horrible one. I was living with my sister and when I realized something that seemed abnormal then; blood on my under wear I was so scared! I could not tell her because I felt so ashamed. I got some old clothes padded myself but this caused more embarrassment because I think I used such a big clothe that I could hardly walk. My sister called me and asked if I was raped I was so embarrassed. I did not know what to tell her. Then I thought that may be it is to. I thought everybody is going to laugh at me just as it happened to girls at school then I would not go back to school again. My sister showed me what I should do but that made me feel more embarrassed. We need to break the silence.

The Story of Kemi (28yo San Francisco): 
I Thought my Liver had Busted- I kept Seeing Black Spots and not Red Spots on my Panties.

It was definitely a moment of confusion for me. 
I thought my liver had busted because I kept seeing black spots and not red spots on my panties at the age of 10 or 11. 
I saw the spots for like 3 days and was scared to tell anyone. I started thinking maybe I had a disease. 
I was in a boarding school and
I knew when people had their period it was red, 
but I was seeing brownish stuff
and was terrified. I used tissue through out that month. 
The following month, 
I saw red instead of the brownish stuff and I was more comfortable telling my friends and my family. I decided to send a letter home to my mom through my guardian counselor at my boarding school
to inform her about my period. 
She came to school a few days later with my older aunt and they asked me if I was sure. 
I said yes, they asked if anyone touched me, 
I said no. 
I was very small with
no breast, 
So they were shocked that I started my period early…. yeah
damn! 
I had to manage my pad, and had no chance to shower often because I was a Junior in boarding school. The Seniors could take showers twice or thrice a day when they were on their periods because they got Juniors to fetch water for them for free. I had to wear one pad for a long time-
I don’t remember taking showers except in the morning. I also never knew when my next period was coming, 
nobody taught me
so I went through that whole getting stained experience. 
 I had my sweater in my locker
Just in case it happens- that saved many of us 
LOL. It was very disturbing at first but I got used to it after months. 
It is crazy, 
I know students who couldn’t afford pads. 
They brought pieces of Ankara (rags) to school..
and washed it. The advise I received about menstruation was just don’t let any boy touch you. 
I thought I was pregnant
when I saw the blood the first time. 
All kinds of thoughts
I don’t even know
But I got used to it…