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. And who knows, maybe you got your first period at school as well?
Living in a school hostel for most of her childhood and teenage years, Hilma naturally got her first period at school. Hilma is from Namibia, where menstruation is a topic that is not often openly talked about. In our interview, however, she freely shares her personal period experiences with us and talks about her teachers awesome reaction when she started bleeding at school. Dear Hilma, thank you so much for this wonderful interview!
Gender / Sex: Female
Country of birth: Namibia
Home: Windhoek, Namibia
Job: Accounting and Finance Intern
Age at first period: 13
Favorite period product: Kotex Pads
Cost per menstruation: +\- N$60 (3,60 US$ / 3,00€)
1. How is menstruation seen in your family, culture or even country?
From what I know, menstruation is one of the topics that are hardly spoken about openly. As little girls, we were so young and scared to even mention that you’ve started seeing blood in your panties. Because society made us believe that only girls who became sexually active at a young age will get their period earlier.
2. How and by whom were you educated about menstruation?
Growing up, I became quite independent at a very young age. Since most of my school years, I have lived in school hostels. I first had a conversation about menstruation with a coach at my school. Her role as a coach was to teach and educate us on things like STDs, drug & alcohol abuse, our bodies and just general issues that our parents hardly spoke about. So the coach had a session with us girls one day, where she spoke mainly about periods. We openly asked her questions about what products we can use and how to use them (she demonstrated). She advised us on where to buy the products when that time comes.
3. Tell us a little about your first period at school.
I got my first period at school because I used to reside in the school hostel at that time. So I was super lucky because I also had an arts teacher who was really nice and easy to talk to. The good thing about my period is: On the first day, I don’t really get any stains on myself, because my period sort of gives me a signal. So that day while at school, I felt a little uneasy down there (wet). So when I went to the restroom, I saw some brownish discharge in my panties. I didn’t really panic as I was sort of aware of some signs of one’s period. I went to my arts teacher and told her about it. She escorted me to their office storeroom where they kept some pads for learners and showed me how to use it.
4. How do you feel about your menstruation?
When I was younger, I found it really annoying and really just felt like it was too much work. But this feeling changed as the years went by. I started to appreciate my period, even though the bleeding is a little uncomfortable because I mostly have heavy flows. I really just feel good about it. It makes me feel like a woman. And it gives me more pride in myself as a woman! It’s amazing!
5. Which menstrual products have you already tried?
I haven’t tried any other products apart from pads!! I have just made an assumption that tampons are uncomfortable and anything else that’s not a pad, will annoy me. Therefore I have only used pads.
6. What do you like to do when on your period?
I get quite heavy menstrual cramps, so I just like to be on my own. I take short walks if I have to. And I also like to listen to music.
7. How are you feeling when menstruating?
I get really moody and I’m annoyed by little stuff because the cramps make me really weak. So I really just prefer to be left alone. I like to eat hot food. Actually I like to just have something to chew on. Food like candy takes off the focus from the discomfort. And that way I can forget about the pain a little. One tip that truly works for me: Warm/cold towels. There are days when I feel like something cold would do. So pressing a cold towel against my abdomen and lower back helps. On some days the body wants warm compression, so I do the same.
8. Who are you talking to about menstruation?
My sisters and female cousins. It’s just more comfortable to talk to people who actually understand periods and who are able to constructively contribute to the topic.
9. Do you have a particular funny, embarrassing or important story about menstruation?
My periods are quite regular and I also use an app to track them, therefore I haven’t really had any surprises from my periods. Although there was a time I bought really huge pads (I didn’t read the size as I was in a hurry). And so when I wore the pad the following day, the first thing that one girl (Nadia) noticed was the huge pad. She poked her friend and went like, damn look how Hilma’s pad is showing!! So the friend was kind enough to come up to me and say, your pad is so visible and we can tell it’s really huge. I had to figure something out and change the pad… So yes, size does matter too.
10. Want to share anything else about menstruation?
My period lasts for about 6 days and I was always a bit concerned about that because it seemed a little too long. So one time I gathered my courage and spoke to my doctor about it. She told me that a normal period lasts between 3-7 days and that actually nothing is wrong with me. Also since mine are actually very regular, she said I had nothing to worry about. The relief!!!
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!