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 smash the period taboo together!

Even though Almas grew up as a curi­ous child exper­i­ment­ing with dis­pos­able pads, nobody explained to her the pur­pose of them – even after ask­ing about it mul­tiple times. She is from India and was brought up in a soci­ety the period taboo runs deep and talk­ing about peri­ods is still a shame­ful thing. Today she shares her story of how she became com­fort­able talk­ing to over hun­dreds of men­stru­at­ing people about peri­ods. Thank you so much, Almas, for becom­ing com­fort­able talk­ing about peri­ods and act­ively break­ing the period taboo through education.

Per­sonal Information

Name: Almas Zareen
Age: 21
Gender / Sex: Woman / Female
Coun­try of birth: India
Home: Luc­know, India
Col­lege: Bachelor’s degree in Social Work
Age at first period: 13
Favor­ite period product:I have always used san­it­ary pads. Still have not tried any other product
Cost per men­stru­ation: 150 Rupees / 2,03$ (eff. 8th Septem­ber 2020) 
Con­tra­cep­tion method: Con­dom

1. How is men­stru­ation seen in your fam­ily, cul­ture or even coun­try? How about the period taboo?

Since the begin­ning, men­stru­ation has been a taboo in India. Men­stru­at­ors are not allowed to sit in the place where we wor­ship. We are not allowed to sit with our fam­il­ies, thus, dis­crim­in­at­ing against us whenever we are on our peri­ods. It is sad that people think that men­stru­ation is only a WOMAN’s ISSUE. The soci­ety is ignor­ant towards the trans people and only a few know that even trans men bleed. Our soci­ety thinks that one should not talk about such top­ics in the open because it is against the Indian cul­ture. When it comes to my own fam­ily, we were never allowed to talk about it in front of our father.

menstruation around the world, period taboo, menstrual taboo, period stigma, periods in india, menstruation in india, almas zareen, vulvani

Photo Cred­its: Almas

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

My older sis­ter told me about peri­ods and the fun fact is that she did not tell me what it really was. I just knew that I have to use the san­it­ary pads in a par­tic­u­lar way whenever I start bleed­ing and I should always carry one with me in case of an emergency.

3. Tell us a little about your first period.

I was sit­ting with my sis­ters when one of them noticed that I had stained my clothes. Both of them were like now you have grown up, this is a san­it­ary pad. You have to stick it on your under­gar­ment so that it can soak up all the blood. Neither was I pre­pared nor did I ever think of ques­tion­ing any­thing else about it.

4. How do you feel about your menstruation?

In the begin­ning, dur­ing my teen­age years, men­stru­ation was a taboo. I never talked openly about it, not to my sis­ters, not to my friends. There were code words like, “I AM DOWN” or “HAPPY BIRTHDAY”. And I never felt the need to talk about it. But in 2019, I interned with one of the lead­ing NGOs in India – GOONJ and that is where my life turned upside down. I got to know what hap­pens with the weaker sec­tion of the soci­ety, how import­ant it is for us to talk about men­stru­ation and to break the silence around it. That is where I learnt that MENSTRUATION IS A HUMAN ISSUE and NOT A WOMAN’s ISSUE. And I have been chant­ing this man­tra since then.

menstruation around the world, period taboo, menstrual taboo, period stigma, periods in india, menstruation in india, almas zareen, vulvani
menstruation around the world, period taboo, menstrual taboo, period stigma, periods in india, menstruation in india, almas zareen, vulvani

Photo Cred­its: Almas

5. Which men­strual products have you already tried?

I never had the cour­age to switch from san­it­ary pads to some other product. So I have always used san­it­ary pads. Might change the product after COVID-19.

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

Every time I have my period, I love watch­ing movies. And my energy and pro­ductiv­ity is high all the time, except on the first day. I do have a lot of mood swings. And there are times when I also cry for no reason, which I think is good because it is cath­artic in its own way.
Dur­ing my men­stru­ation, some­times I do not like wear­ing jeans.

7. How are you feel­ing when menstruating?

I would not go around and say that men­stru­at­ing is a bless­ing becaue it really is pain­ful but YES ! It is nor­mal.
I gen­er­ally drink more water when menstruating.

8. Who are you talk­ing to about menstruation?

I talk to every­body about men­stru­ation because there is noth­ing to be shy about. It is as nor­mal as pregnancy.

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

I was a really curi­ous child. So at the age of 9 or 10, I used to pee on san­it­ary pads think­ing that it was meant to be used by women to pee on it when they were out for work and did not have the facil­ity of wash­rooms due to hec­tic sched­ules. So YES, IT WAS MEANT FOR BLADDER CONTROL accord­ing to me. Later in life, this myth got busted.

10. Want to share any­thing else about the period taboo?

Since 2019, along with my stud­ies, I have been work­ing with women belong­ing to the mar­gin­al­ized sec­tor of the soci­ety, BREAKING THE SILENCE around peri­ods and mak­ing it nor­mal. I have worked as an indi­vidual and as interns with NGOs so that I could reach out to more and more people. Until this date, I have worked with more than 500 women, lead­ing ses­sions with them, mak­ing them under­stand the physiology of peri­ods along with bust­ing their myths and break­ing the period taboo.

menstruation around the world, period taboo, menstrual taboo, period stigma, periods in india, menstruation in india, almas zareen, vulvani

Photo Cred­its: Almas

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!

Britta Wiebe, period education, Vulvani
Britta 
Co-Founder Vul­vani | britta@vulvani.com | Web­site | + posts

Britta Wiebe is the co-founder of Vul­vani. She loves research­ing, writ­ing and design­ing new art­icles or innov­at­ive edu­ca­tional con­cepts about men­stru­ation all day long. When she is not trav­el­ling the world, she enjoys spend­ing time with her loved ones in the beau­ti­ful city of Ham­burg in Germany.