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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!