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.

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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.

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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.

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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
Co-Founder Vul­vani | | 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.