When I visited the charity Smyrna in Ooty who distribute many of our period packs, we decided to run a day for the young women who they sponsor. We invited them to spend the day at the centre. They came in their best outfits. Some of their mothers and grandmothers came too.
We played icebreaker games on the lawn to start the day so that everyone felt more relaxed. Then we handed out tea and biscuits and everyone chatted on the grass.
We spent the rest of the morning in the classroom.
The Smyrna nurse spoke to everyone about menstruation. The entire room soaked up the information, including the mothers and grandmothers. It was very clear that much of what they were hearing, they had never heard before.
She explained the menstrual cycle and why it happens. She talked them through the changes to the body throughout each cycle, the pains, the hormones, the moods. She explained how they could manage the pain and how different foods can help them have a healthy menstrual cycle. She taught them that periods are not to be feared, that they are what makes it possible to produce new life. She encouraged them to talk to their sisters about it and not to feel ashamed. She spoke of the beauty of the female body and how the menstrual cycle should be celebrated and cherished.
It was beautiful to watch the wide eyes of young and old women hearing a message, much of which they had never heard before. During a question time, it became even more apparent just how little they knew about periods. One young woman asked, ‘if I take paracetamol for period pain, will it stop me from being able to have children?’
We all ate lunch together which was funded by some generous Shared Threads patrons.
After lunch, we spent more time in the classroom, sharing stories and then handing out the period packs, which the nurse explained how to wash and look after.
There was a lot of giggling as they unpacked their pants and we showed them how the pads worked, but they were clearly delighted to receive them.
I asked the girls how they manage without pads. Many of them told me that they use old newspaper or leaves or sand to manage their period.
They all left the day giggling and smiling as teenage girls do, and many of them handed me thank you notes which they had written. I wanted to share them with you, because it is you that they are thanking. It is you that is helping them to manage their period with dignity, get an education and thrive.
I was invited by some of these girls to visit their homes a few days later.
Please consider being a Shared Threads patron and help us keep more girls like this well equipped to manage their period and stay in school.