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. Now who of you hasn’t tried pads before?

Mashiyat and many other women in Bangladesh grew up not know­ing what hav­ing a period really meant. Men­stru­ation being a taboo topic, people hav­ing their period were being called ‘bad’ or ‘immoral’. Now, years later, Mashiyat is a men­strual health act­iv­ist in Bangladesh. She leads a social enter­prise called Resur­gence Bangladesh which pro­duces low-cost bio­de­grad­able pads. Thank you, Mashiyat, for shar­ing your amaz­ing story!

Per­sonal Information

Name: Mashiyat
Age: 24
Gender / Sex: Woman/Female
Coun­try of birth: Bangladesh
Home: Krakow, Poland
Job: CEO at Resur­gence Bangladesh / Inter­na­tional Mas­ter in Global Mar­kets, Local Cre­ativ­it­ies at Uni­ver­sity of Glas­gow / Fin­an­cial Crime Ana­lyst at Revolut
Age at first period: 10
Favor­ite period product: I have only tried pads. My cul­ture has always asso­ci­ated tam­pons and men­strual cups with cer­tain stig­mas. And although I am con­scious of them, it is very dif­fi­cult for me to over­come the fears and trau­mas I have with other period products. Hope­fully, I’ll get there someday.
Cost per men­stru­ation: 5-10 GBP depend­ing on my monthly flow, which dif­fers as I have PCOS.

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1. How is men­stru­ation seen in your fam­ily, cul­ture and even country?

Men­stru­ation is a huge taboo in my coun­try. The social stig­mas are so power­ful that most women in low-income com­munit­ies are unaware of what peri­ods really are. Many think that peri­ods are a curse or a form of the body get­ting rid of a woman’s sins by excret­ing out the ‘bad’ blood. As a men­strual health act­iv­ist, I have often been labeled as a pro­pa­gand­ist since period-related con­ver­sa­tions are con­sidered shame­ful in most Banglade­shi com­munit­ies. In my imme­di­ate fam­ily, men­stru­ation has become more nor­mal­ized ever since I took up advocacy actions in the field of men­strual, sexual, and repro­duct­ive health and rights. Before that, how­ever, no one spoke about peri­ods and pads openly.

Mashiyat; Vulvani; Resurgence Period; Women Deliver 2019; sanitary napkins; Menstruationsbinden; Damenbinden; period pads; pads; menstruation pads; Slipeinlagen

Photo Cred­its: Mashiyat

Mashiyat; Vulvani; Resurgence Period; Women Deliver 2019; sanitary napkins; Menstruationsbinden; Damenbinden; period pads; pads; menstruation pads; Slipeinlagen

2. How and by whom were you edu­cated about men­stru­ation and pads?

I never received formal edu­ca­tion about men­stru­ation. My first con­ver­sa­tion about peri­ods was when I was nine years old. It was with my friends at school, when one of our friends sud­denly got her first period. Back then, we had no idea what peri­ods were. We just thought she was injured or had some kind of dis­ease. She was rushed to the toi­let by one of our teach­ers, who later sent her home. The teacher later informed us that all women have this ‘red pee’ incid­ent when they become adults. 

Almost two years later I prop­erly found out about peri­ods through extens­ive Google searches.

3. Tell us a little about your first period. Did you use pads?

When I was eleven years old I had my first period. I was not expect­ing it at all, so when I woke up in bed one morn­ing and saw blood on my sheets, I thought I was about to die. Scream­ing for help, I ran to my mom, pan­ick­ing about hav­ing ‘can­cer’. She pan­icked a little as she was so unpre­pared for the moment. She imme­di­ately taught me how to use winged pads. But still she did not tell me what peri­ods were, so I remained very con­fused until I decided to enlist help from the internet.

4. How do you feel about your own menstruation?

I have always hated and dreaded get­ting my period. This feel­ing has not at all changed over the years. In fact, it’s got­ten worse as I am now exper­i­en­cing symp­toms of PCOS. My peri­ods some­times come with extreme mood swings, so I never look for­ward to them. This has noth­ing to do with shame though; I love being a woman and am at peace with my body. I just do not like the feel­ing of bleed­ing con­stantly and fear­ing leaks (I des­pise hav­ing to wash the blood off sheets, clothes, and/or under­wear, espe­cially when the stains are hard to get rid of).

5. Which men­strual products other that pads have you already tried?

I have never used any products other than pads. Because of the lack of access to tam­pons and men­strual cups in Bangladesh, I never ended up try­ing them grow­ing up. Now, I have an irra­tional fear when it comes to try­ing them, which I am slowly try­ing to get over.

Mashiyat; Vulvani; Resurgence Period; Women Deliver 2019; sanitary napkins; Menstruationsbinden; Damenbinden; period pads; pads; menstruation pads; Slipeinlagen

Photo Cred­its: Mashiyat

6. What do you like to do when on your period?

Dur­ing my peri­ods I have quite a few mood swings. I try to design my days in ways that can keep me rel­at­ively pro­duct­ive. Still, I do have a tend­ency to give in to food crav­ings, which vary from month to month. What I abso­lutely don’t like while men­stru­at­ing is sweat­ing or feel­ing sweaty. That is mak­ing men­stru­ation in the sum­mer par­tic­u­larly more annoying.

7. How are you feel­ing when menstruating?

My feel­ings vary a lot from month to month, and they depend a lot on my period flow. On months when my flow is lighter, my mood is usu­ally a lot bet­ter. I do not always have cramps, but when I do, I need to get on paink­illers. Food items like ice cream and green tea help, as do hot water bags and/or compresses.

8. Who are you talk­ing to about men­stru­ation and pads?

As a men­strual health act­iv­ist, I talk to every­one about men­stru­ation and pads. I believe that more open con­ver­sa­tions and men­strual health edu­ca­tion can help resolve all stig­mas, taboos, and mis­con­cep­tions regard­ing peri­ods, so I always encour­age people to talk about it. There is noth­ing to feel shy about as it’s such a nor­mal pro­cess, and that’s what I want every­one to know.

Mashiyat; Vulvani; Resurgence Period; Women Deliver 2019; sanitary napkins; Menstruationsbinden; Damenbinden; period pads; pads; menstruation pads; Slipeinlagen

Photo Cred­its: Mashiyat

9. Do you have a par­tic­u­lar funny, embar­rass­ing or import­ant story about menstruation?

Some of the men we’ve talked to while work­ing in Dhaka’s urban slums thought that peri­ods only happened to ‘bad’ or ‘immoral’ women as a form of pun­ish­ment. This was really shock­ing for me, as I had not yet real­ized the extent of the harm that period-related stig­mas caused. The nor­mal­iz­a­tion of men­stru­ation is so import­ant! Every­one needs to know that men­stru­ation is a reg­u­lar part of life and that there is noth­ing ‘bad’ or ‘unnat­ural’ caus­ing it.

10. Want to share any­thing else about pads, men­stru­ation or yourself?

I lead a social enter­prise called Resur­gence Bangladesh which pro­duces low-cost bio­de­grad­able pads and advoc­ates for greater access to period products and edu­ca­tion in Banglade­shi low-income com­munit­ies. We’ve had the priv­ilege of work­ing with sev­eral people on our pro­jects in debunk­ing period myths. We even have some period games that we’ve developed to ease con­ver­sa­tion. It’s import­ant to know that peri­ods are nor­mal and not shame­ful, so we try to make our cam­paigns fun and enga­ging so that more people take part. The more you talk about it, the less room for taboos to exist!

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!

Vivien Ulm
Vivi 
Stu­dent & Editor | + posts

Vivi is study­ing Journ­al­ism and Com­mu­nic­a­tion Sci­ence in the beau­ti­ful city of Ham­burg. Since Juli she is also part of the Vul­vani team in Social Media and Con­tent. She usu­ally spends her time with her favor­ite activ­it­ies: prom­en­ad­ing through the city with friends, binging series and eating/cooking some deli­cious vegan food (not neces­sar­ily in that order). She is very inter­ested in Men­strual Health and finds that there is still soooo much to learn about the human body.