You know the way when you are sick (even if it’s just a cold) you miss your mum? Anyone? Cmon I know I am not the only one who feels like that. Well this week I have been a bit under the weather and I have been reminiscing on many things. We all have childhood memories that have hang on for years. You could be seated in a meeting and you start smiling because of an odd funny memory. I have been having a lot of those, maybe because I’m becoming soft and mushy but we’ll completely ignore that part. Kindness to a child is never forgotten. Same goes for cruelty. Treat a child badly and they will never forget it. They may get over the thing you did to them but they will always have trouble liking you. Why am I talking about this?
Because last month I bumped into one of my primary school teachers and I was so nostalgic. She stopped and said hi to me and we stood and chatted on the street for over an hour. I told her how much we liked her in school. She was nice and always so well-dressed. I even told her how we would wait with excitement during assembly to see what she had worn each day. When I told her that she giggled and said something about us being so cheeky. What stuck with me though about this teacher was not just her dressing and I told her so. She did something very kind to me that has stuck with me for many years. I had just joined the school, transferred in the middle of a school year. It was standard seven third term and I was not just the new girl, I was a sponsored student in an upper end school! This teacher was a friend of my mum and because I had not yet got a bed allocated to me I was staying with her at the teachers’ quarters. And then as if I couldn’t be more terrified, I got my period. For the very first time! I had no pads leave alone know how to use them. I hadn’t even made a friend whom I could borrow one from. So I walked out, with a lot of uncertainty and fear and went to this teacher and told her. I was so embarrassed. I didn’t even know her well; I was actually a bit afraid of her.
And she acted as if it was no big deal. She told me not to worry, took me to her house gave me a packet of pads and even explained how to use them. I don’t know how she did it but by the end of it I was no longer embarrassed. She made it feel like something amazing had happened to me and I should be proud. She gave me some pain killers just in case I got cramps and then she sent me to class. I don’t remember how the rest of the week went but I know I made new friends and school started being fun. The next term, I wrote pads on my shopping list and my mum bought me three packets!!
Where is all this coming from? Well, two weeks ago I wrote about confidence and the #AlwaysStandUpKe campaign and I got such amazing feedback. People saying how being confident has helped them and how their self-esteem was empowered as they were growing up and they can now confidently speak for themselves. Well, there is nothing that destroys a girl’s confidence than being made fun of because of a natural thing happening to her that she even doesn’t understand. I went on and read up on the research done by Always and I was stunned. Did you know menstruation causes Kenyan adolescent girls to lose an average of 3.5 million learning days per month? One in 10 African adolescent girls miss school during menses and eventually drop out because of menstruation-related issues. We should not be talking about missing school and even DROPPING OUT because of periods in the 21st century but here we are.
So what can you do about it? For starters, as a society we can all stop treating having a period as something disgusting. I know half of you have read this post stopping to wrinkle your nose every time I said period, pads or cramps. We have to start there. Girls have to deal with this every month they don’t need you making it harder and more embarrassing. Two, we need small acts of kindness like the one I experienced. When you are in a position to help someone who looks distressed, help. Don’t stare at them with bewilderment. Find out what they need and help. I like this about women, if you go to a bathroom and you need a pad or tampon (stop grimacing) you don’t need to know any of the girls in there and you will be assisted. Most importantly, if you know a girl who is out of school because her family can’t afford to buy her pads go on and help. If you hear of an initiative like the #AlwaysStandUpKe that is helping girls go through this part of life with confidence, get involved. Participate. Don’t let a girl miss school when you can help.
Author: Wanjiru Kihusa
I am Wanjiru Kihusa and I’m a writer and founder of Still A Mum – an organization that seeks to reduce maternal and newborn deaths in Africa. I am especially passionate about women and children.
I blog to share my thoughts and experiences hoping that in the process someone will learn from my life.