Menstruation Around the World is series from Vulvani that attempts to show the diversity of menstrual experiences around the world. We portray people from different countries with their personal stories. Let us explore the wonderful and so diverse world of menstrual experiences together. Let’s see, why Monicah started a menstruation organization in Kenya!
More than 1.2 million primary school girls in Kenya do not attend school due to a lack of menstrual products. Monicah from Heels4Pads, started a CSR campaign under Sister Speaks Global, with the aim to raise and amplify awareness on period poverty while empowering menstruation people to advance gender equality and equity through the menstrual health approach. Here she tells us, how menstruation is perceived in Kenya and what made her start the menstruation organization.
Gender / Sex: female
Country of birth: Kenya
Home: Nairobi, Kenya
Job: Business & ICT; currently a social entrepreneur in menstrual health and gender space
Age at first period: 13
Favorite period product: Sanitary pad and recently Heels4Pads (reusable pads made by my menstruation organization)
Cost per menstruation: 50 KSHS (0,39€; 0,45$) for disposable and 250 KShs (1,16€; 1,36$) – Lasts more longer
How is menstruation seen in your family, culture and even country? What made you found your menstruation organization?
It is a hush hush topic. My experience was more shaped by my schoolteachers as opposed to family and guardians. Navigating the journey was flawless. Unfortunately, that is not the case in many cultures in Kenya. Just in 2019, a girl took her life after being taunted by her teacher for soiling her dress with menses. Heels4Pads, a menstruation organization I founded, raises awareness using the mainstream media to rise above shame, silence and stigma.
How and by whom were you educated about menstruation?
School teachers and nuns taught me about reproductive health including menstruation in a class and seminar set up. We were equipped with knowledge and products.
Tell us a little about your first period!
My first period came on the Christmas day of 2000 🙂 I was shocked at first since all members of the family were having lunch only to start periods cramps that killed my jolly mood. I had (Always) pads, that my school had provided. And I ended up telling my older cousin who made sure I got painkillers and rest.
Photo credit: Monicah
How do you feel about your own menstruation? Has the feeling changed since working for you menstruation organization?
I see it as a beautiful shedding and renewal of my reproductive system and out-with-the-old-in-with-new type of scenario. Although, over the last couple of years, my menses have become irregular which has costed a lot of money and work around my hormones. I use my experience to educate young menstruators I meet during my work with our menstruation organization Heels4Pads, that irregular periods do not make them less of human. It is important for them to seek help to intervene and take control of their bodies and health. Since I am working in the space, it is a learning curve everyday based on the experiences of other menstruators I meet and learn of their journeys.
Which menstrual products have you already tried?
Initially I used Always products, but they eventually started giving me skin irritation. This was due to the scented property that did not work for me. I switched to a local cotton brand, and I haven’t been had a bad experience up until last year when my menstruation organization started making Heels4Pads reusable cloth pads. The comfort is everything! I have also used tampons by tampax but only when I am traveling or swimming, otherwise it is not a daily thing.
What do you like to do when on your period?
I love drinking a lot of fluids, resting, stretching and just being left alone 🙂 I drink a lot of peppermint tea, golden coconut milk and eat a lot of fruits. I do not have many cravings.
How are you feeling when menstruating? Do you experience period pain?
Yes, I do experience period pain, but as I grow older and started using the pill, the pain has gotten better.
Who are you talking to about menstruation since working in your menstruation organization?
Aufgrund meiner Arbeit in der MHM spreche ich mit wirklich jedem über Menstruation. Egal ob in einem Club, im Supermarkt, im Uber oder zu Hause – ich spreche einfach immer über Menstruation!
Do you have a particular funny, embarrassing or important story about menstruation from your work at the menstruation organization?
I don’t have one in particular, but we conducted a social experiment in the streets of Nairobi to gauge public perception on periods. I soiled my dress with food colour and people acted all sorts of different. It was funny to see people’s reaction. Watch it here:
Do you have a book recommendation?
“The Managed Body” is a book everyone should read!
You would like to volunteer at Heels4Pads? Then get in touch here.
Do you want to become part of ‘Menstruation around the world’?
We hope to be able to present the portraits of menstruating people as varied and diverse as possible. And for this we need you – no matter how you feel about your own menstruation or where you come from! If you would like to be part of this series and share your personal experiences and thoughts about menstruation with us, please write us a message or simply fill out this questionnaire (anonymously is also possible). We are already looking forward to sharing your story with the Vulvani community!