The girls of my class, merely stared back at me. I repeated,
“Periods, yes periods. It’s called menstruation”
I could see the shock and surprise in the eyes of a few students while others looked literally horrified at the mention of this word being said out aloud.
“There’s nothing to be ashamed about Periods. They are as natural as life itself. The women population on earth is almost 49.59%, almost half of the population is female. Periods are a part of a woman’s life. Why is it inappropriate to speak about such an integral part of our lives?”
By this point, the young teenage girls of my English language class had recovered from the shock and horror of the word “Periods” and now were intently listening to me.
This wasn’t the first time I was talking about women’s health, hygiene and menstruation, with my students. Every year, I spoke to the newly inducted pre-O level English Language students about this at our all-girls campus, to normalise “the Periods talk” and let them know that Menstruation wasn’t called Voldemort or It-That-Must-Not-Be-Named. The sole purpose behind this discussion was always to build self awareness and self acknowledgement along with better health and hygiene in my female students. This year however, I had another reason too.
Pakistan had been flooded severely in the summer of 2022. By September, nearly one third of the country was underwater with 33 million people affected by this calamity. From every corner of Pakistan, people stepped forward for donations and flood relief as the destruction was on a massive scale and needed attention of everyone. Our School was also one of the organisations that took part in Flood Relief Donations. Food, Clothing, Medication, Monetary funds all sort of help was appreciated. During the days of collection, I kept on thinking about all the women and girls who were left without shelter and any personal possessions.
“How are they managing their periods?”
“They have no access to clean cloth, cotton, undergarments and pads of any sort. How does one manage seven days of bleeding and pain without proper hygiene products?”
I asked my students the very same questions the same day we had our discussion on one of the most tabooed topics for Pakistani females: PERIODS.
My hesitant students, soon started sharing their views and pitching in ideas as to how to show support to our fellow women, in this tough time of flooding and displacement. My young girls decided that while other necessities like rations were being collected, they would start a collection drive for women hygiene products, undergarments and pads. By the next afternoon, all my young learners had brought the required stuff, neatly packaged in cartons. These little angels, who were mortified about talking about periods just one day ago, were now keenly following my lead and taking part in the initiative to support women and girls in need.
It didn’t stop there. These girls spread their message among their school fellows, family members and friends too. More and more people contributed in the collection of women sanitary products and carton after carton was sent over to the affected areas through the helpful organisation who was collaborating with our institution for the flood relief.
Every year, I encouraged my students to be comfortable around communicating about menstruation but this year was special because not only did the awareness level of my students increased and their confidence boosted up, but they put their newly acquired self assurance to help and support the ones in need. Women support women; the idea and it’s implementation was visible in the words and actions of my amazing students and I couldn’t be more proud!
Nida Javed Khan
English Language Teacher and Deputy Head
Bloomfield Hall Girls Campus