Nasreen on the first time she got her periods & the stigma associated with menstruation

Nasreen (left) opening up on her experience with Myna

“The first time I got my periods, I thought it was a disease and that I was going to die.

Nobody had told me about periods before. It was never taught to us in school and neither did my parents discuss it at home.

I locked myself in a washroom and bawled my eyes out. The pain was excruciating. I felt giddy, uncomfortable and most of all, unprepared.

When my grandmother heard me crying, I was afraid to tell her. Once she found out why, she simply handed me a piece of cloth and asked me to place it on my underwear. That’s it. No explanation. No reasoning. No questions answered.

The prospect of wearing a cloth made me feel uneasy and I refused to do it. After much adamance, I was handed a sanitary napkin by my aunt, who works in the production team of Myna Mahila Foundation (a social enterprise that works for menstrual hygiene for women in Mumbai’s slums).

My aunt and uncle told me everything I needed to know about periods. They spoke to me like my friends. They encouraged me to eat vegetables, go for a walk, drink juice and consume more protein whenever I feel down.
In the place I come from, no woman ever says that she is ‘on her period’. Instead, they say things like ‘she has become impure’ or ‘she is untouchable’. In my case, my mother was told that her daughter has ‘grown up’.

Nasreen educating women at Myna’s ‘Sponsor a Girl’ event

I believe that if everybody starts talking about periods openly, there will be no room for shame.

In fact, even boys should be included in these conversations. It’s not that they are unaware about what periods are.

The reason why most people shy away from discussing menstruation is because they think it is something unpleasant or dirty, when in fact, it is healthy to have periods.

Menstruation is a natural process and I want all girls to own it, unabashedly.”

Today, Nasreen is just 16 years old and educates women of all ages about safe disposal of sanitary pads through Myna Mahila Foundation.

“I have come a long way from not knowing what periods are to now educating other women about the same. I wish to keep doing this until there is a change in the mindset of people in my community.”

Currently, she spends her summer at Myna, learning to use the laptop and building skills to achieve her future dreams.

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