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. What is up with the exchange of period products for sex in Kenya? Let’s hear two personal stories about period poverty and the consequences it brings.
Period products for sex – still a reel thing for young menstruating people in Kenya. They still fight against period poverty and the menstrual taboo. But two amazing menstruators want to break that taboo and fight for menstrual equity and women’s right. Here are the stories of Laureen and Caroline, two menstruators in Kenya.
Gender / Sex: female
Country of birth: Kenya
Home: Nairobi, Kenya
Age at first period: 15
Favorite period product: I don’t have one yet since I haven’t been able to try all of them yet.
Cost per menstruation: Ksh 400 (3,15 € / 3,52 $)
Contraception: Pull out
Gender / Sex: female
Country of birth: Kenya
Home: Nairobi, Kenya
Job: Bachelor in Journalism
Age at first period: 14
Favorite period product: Pads
Cost per menstruation: Ksh 600 (4,68€ / 5,28$)
How is menstruation seen in your family, culture and Kenya?
Laureen: Period in Kenya seen as a personal secret that I as a female should not tell anyone about.
Caroline: Menstruation is a taboo in most cultures. But it’s a conversation that we are still pushing for, creating awareness in the sense that no menstruating person gets to period products for sex because they are afraid of sharing their problems with their parents.
How and by whom were you educated about your period in Kenya?
Laureen: My teacher back in primary school. All girls were called, and we were taught on how to wear a pad.
Caroline: My first period conversation was when I was 14, after I actually my dress. My class teacher briefly explained what was happening to me after being bullied by the boys.
How was your first period?
Laureen: My first period was painful. It was back in high school, and I felt disgusted and I was in a lot of pain. I had pads in my desk and that’s what I was able to use.
Caroline: My first period was the most traumatizing thing that I have ever had to deal with. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I felt no pain and things just took a quick shift. My classmates laughed at me and that really killed my energy. To think that the girls laughed at me and most of them probably knew what was happening to me even broke me more. I didn’t know who to talk to because during those days, phones were not allowed in schools, so I couldn’t call my mother … My teacher noticed when I stood up again to walk out. Remember, nobody told me what was really happening, so I kept moving around. People kept staring and laughing until my teacher explained what had happened and how to deal with it. After that I didn’t go to school for two weeks because I was still traumatized.
How do you feel about your own menstruation?
Laureen: I have learnt to love each one of my menstruations, embrace them, and speak about them.
Caroline: It still scares me to date; every time I am on my period, I keep looking at myself, hoping to not have messed up.
Which menstrual products have you already tried?
Laureen: Pads are the only ones I have used. Soon I will be switching to sustainable environmentally friendly ones.
Caroline: I have only tried pads and that is what I find most comfortable using. It works best for me.
What do you like to do when on your period?
Laureen: I just love summer salts!
Caroline: I like being alone. That helps me think about my next steps towards self-growth and I also get to take a lot of sugary stuff. This helps me and I don’t like being around people when menstruating, I get irritated so easily.
How are you feeling when menstruating? Do you have any tips?
Laureen: I drink lots of lemon water, I just love sour drinks!
Caroline: I get severe period pains, anytime I am menstruating, so I must take two days off. I normally place a bottle with slightly hot water on my stomach, it helps a lot and I also drink a lot of hot water.
Who are you talking to about your period in Kenya? And what’s the deal with period products for sex?
Laureen: Everyone, I guess. I talk about it on my social media pages and all my friends, including non-menstruators.
Caroline: I talk about peroids to the youth from challenged backgrounds in Kenya because they are mostly targeted by men who trade period products for sex. I have these conversations whenever I get time. It takes time to identify the particular audience you would want to address.
Do you have an important story about menstruation you want to share?
Laureen: For a long time, I struggled to afford pads. I found myself debating on whether to buy food or pads or even an injection to relieve my period cramps. I couldn’t go to school while menstruating which is just sad. Period products should be free!
Caroline: There are your menstruators who sit on sand for those three to five days of menstruation because they lack period products, this not healthy and exposes these menstruators to some of the health issues associated with menstruation, this is very embarrassing.
What else can you tell us about period in Kenya and the trading of period products for sex?
Laureen: I think menstruation is amazing and something completely natural.
Caroline: Menstruation is not a “girl thing” as people perceive it. And the minute we all get to understand this and get the non-menstruators to understand the importance of not taking advantage of menstruating people for something they have no control over, the better this will get for our young menstruators. Menstruation is not a choice and it is my greatest desire that no menstruator ever gets to sit on sand, skip school or trade period products for sex during menstruation, it should be a fun experience!
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!