A girl’s first period is, to many, similar to her entry into womanhood. It is the main factor that separates a girl from a woman, as after all, she officially becomes able to bear a child. To this end, numerous cultures celebrate girls’ first menstruations. For example, certain indigenous tribes in Brazil celebrate by giving a girl her own room for the first three months following her first period. Alternatively, in Japan, families eat the traditional sekihan, a meal made of rice and sticky beans, as a way to celebrate.
Girl’s first menstruations can be something to celebrate, just like they may be a reason to panic for some. Some girls who have not been taught much about their bodies may fear that something is wrong with them, or that there’s a problem “down there”. Others may also deal with serious pain that they have never felt before, and the dread that it may stay like this for a few decades. As such, the first menstruation is often something of a wonder for some, while being a reason to celebrate for others.
Stigma and Difficulty of Access
Nonetheless, other girls aren’t as lucky as they may not have access to sanitary products or may be struck by stigma surrounding their periods. For example, in certain parts of India, stigma is so strong that women cannot access sanitary pads and tampons. Similarly and shockingly so, some women in Nepal cannot go to school or work for the week of their periods as it is assumed that they bring bad luck when they are menstruating, and must therefore be hidden away, quite literally, in small huts away from the family home.
The moral of the story? There is still much work to be done to ensure that every girl has a period that is as pleasant and pain-free as possible. Women should be entitled to medical care and proper sanitary pads if they struggle with issues related to their periods, and no girl should be ashamed to the point of missing school because she is menstruating.
We have a long road ahead of us, ladies!