Essay from Zambia: Lack of knowledge and commodities for managing menstruation adversely impacts girls

December 22, 2021

At my school, the first term is famous for athletics or sports activities such as running, netball, football, volleyball, perhaps all of the common ball games. When I am menstruating, or on "mother's washing day", a term used amongst girls so as to not allow the other gender from having knowledge of what is really transpiring, I am usually unable to participate in the activities sited above. This is mainly due to the very painful stomach and body cramps that hinder me from performing excess physical movement which all the activities highly require.In term three, swimming is prominent due to the obvious fact that it is quite hot. We often go for swimming lessons aside other curricular activities. To be honest, having being on my menses and not being able to participate whilst watching my friends enjoying the freshness of the water is what I hate so deeply! Some girls who wear tampons are able to swim but as for me, who is not accustomed to them, I have no option but to sit, watch and miss out on all the lessons and fun.You can imagine how many lessons missed hinder me from becoming one of the world's greatest swimmers!

Quite often than not, the effects that accompany menstruation affect my almost perfect attendance in class. This is because sometimes it is so painful I would consider it an illness that objects me from going to school. This results in missing out on certain important announcements, tests, and being behind in all the lessons in class. However, on the days that I do go to school while menstruating, my attention span in class is so low that I cannot even wait for lessons to be over so that I go home and rest my body.

Traditionally, at home, it is so rare to cook or prepare a meal for the whole family or anyone during menstruation. This is because to some we are regarded as unclean. One of the things I love doing the most in my free time is cooking. I would say it's a hobby and to be told not to do so does hinder me from attaining my full potential as a cook. Who knows it may be a God given talent or something I desire to do at a professional level in the future

There are also other traditional myths surrounding menstruation. For example, a girl menstruating should never pluck impwa or chilli because if she does so the whole plant will eventually dry up and never bear again. How hysterical right? However these traditional beliefs differ from tribe to tribe. In an event that you are very hungry and it is your only source of food what then? The fact that you are menstruating hinders you from eating certain foods. Others believe that one should not eat foods containing salt.

Menstruation has also hindered me from attending many social gatherings including church. Simply taking a walk to the shops or to see friends becomes hard. Also, my self esteem is lowered to a point that I would really not want to interact with anyone but rather be confined and alone in my room.

Author: M.C., Zambia
GRADE: 12
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