My Menstruation Life Story
Words by Rephrin Kombe
It’s my pleasure to write down my Menstruation life story, as I believe it will touch someone and make a difference in the community (youth, families or societies). Maybe my story will give light to others who share a story of struggling with menstruation.
My name is Rephrin Allan Kombe, and I am a Tanzanian woman.
I remember when I was young I used to hear stories about Menstruation, I truly didn’t know what it was. I grew up in a family that was not so poor, but I missed out on knowledge about menstruation from them, and from society around me.
I remember my first Period when I was 12 years and I was at boarding school. I will never forget it in my life. At first I was so shocked to see the blood, and I thought maybe there was a devil which slept with me at night since I saw blood, and was a virgin. I struggled with the situation, and I couldn’t ask anyone because I was scared and felt shame. Another thing I didn’t know was how to cover myself, so I wore three sets of underwear which wasn’t enough, and that made me miss classes.
Days went by and the following month I saw again that I was bleeding. I remember running from school and when I got home I told my parents that I didn’t want to go to school again, because I believed the devil came again. My dormitory was only young girls - the school did not mix us with other big sisters or older girls. I think they were struggling like me, though no one spoke up.
I stayed home for almost two weeks, and I remember when my late uncle took me back to school, I had to be under the care of a family teacher to make sure I did not keep going back home. But still the problem wasn’t solved - no one understood my situation.
I wrote a letter to my mother like I wanted to kill myself. I didn’t want to live anymore. I couldn’t get anyone who could help to send the letter to her because the school was far from home.
I remembered my late uncle did shopping for me and my cousin before the first day we went to Boarding school. He bought something - I didn’t know what it was but I kept it.
I remember when I was sitting in my sister’s dormitory, I saw one sister wearing something on her underwear, and I was curious what it was. The surprise I got was to see her wearing same thing as Uncle bought me. Quickly I ran to recheck and what I found was the same. I then believed that menstruation blood was normal for any girl and was not actually a devil. I started learning slowly from my sisters at school.
I guess there were others suffering like me. I remember I told the school Matron that I had a special case, so every time I had my Period I acted like my chest was so painful, and like I could not speak well. The Matron would give me bed rest and antibiotics, she made sure I used them. Imagine taking antibiotics when you are not sick just because you don’t know about Menstrual products and how to get them! My Period was about 5 to 7 days and my uncle gave me two pack of disposable pads.
I started thinking about how I can solve these problems in our communities. Especially about Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management (MHHM) and Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health (AYSRH).
I had to work hard on my passion and dream to help communities not only in Tanzania, but also all over Africa. My first solution to help my community was to get sustainable products that would enable me to pass them direct to the community, as well as products to enable me to teach others about Menstruation, Health, Hygiene awareness and early pregnancy. I got pregnant when I was young, and my Pregnancy life story isn’t far from my Menstruation life story.
I found a solution. I discovered Afripads Reusable Sanitary Pads.
When I saw the product I said that this is what I want. It wasn’t easy for them to trust me to be a distributor in my country, and I had nothing to start with. I tried to explain my passion but took time to build trust between us.
Finally they trusted me, and now I distribute reusable sanitary pads to schools, NGOs and individuals, and empower others on development mode with reusable sanitary pads. I provide knowledge to communities, and address equipment needs.
In my estimation, I have reached more than three hundred thousand (300,000) people in my country, and they are now using reusable sanitary pads (AFRIPADS). All that matters is that you build the power of belief and remove fear.