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.
Name: Almas Zareen
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.
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.
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.
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!