BY Nyanchama Oyunge, 1:36pm June 30, 2014,

Becoming a Woman in Africa Continues To Be a Struggle for Many

menstruation in africa

The number of women increased today. A girl became a woman. Now she has to learn new games, because she can no longer play the old ones. She has to pass down her dolls to her younger cousins or even neighbors. She will not need to be reminded by her mother to sit like a girl, it will just come naturally, from within her. She will get a wrapper; her mother might buy her one or give her one of her own. Today she will understand why old clothes are never thrown away or burnt. Today, she might not be able to stay in school, just like the other women. Her gait will change, yeah, she can no longer walk with her feet apart, she won’t play skipping rope, and she won’t pee in the bush either, for she has become a woman.

SEE ALSO: Nigerian Singer Slammed for Offering Virginity In Boko Haram Hostage Trade

Keep Up With Face2Face Africa On Facebook!

My Experience

“Mom I saw the color,” I whispered to her. She did not smile encouragingly. She did not nod knowingly; neither did she hug me tightly. She didn’t even reassure me. She just looked at me and told me to use an old piece of clothing and two panties. It had begun the evening before that day. I had gone to pee behind the house just before retiring to bed.

The moon shone brightly. I couldn’t help but notice the red staining on my pantie. I went to bed. I was positive that it would soon be over by the morning. I was awakened once in the night. It was the pain in my abdomen. It was still very dark outside; there was no light coming from the crack on the window. My father’s radio hadn’t started playing either. Taking a torch from below the mattress, I flashed through the room. The dirty utensils from yester night’s meal were all over on the table. The chicken lay in a corner close together with their heads buried under their wings. The fire had died down. I switched off the flash light and closed my eyes tightly; I knew I had to sleep, for daylight was some hours away.

Another chapter of my life had been opened. I knew that I needed to pass down my dolls. There would be no more tearing old clothes to stitch skirts for my little dolls.

At first I could not walk comfortably; the thing between my legs kept moving. My steps were reduced to narrow, short, and close together paces until the rag was sufficiently soaked. The abdominal pain had now gone, but I still felt gloomy and lost. At school, I wished for the first time that I sat behind everyone else. I could no longer wipe the board; I couldn’t answer any questions either. The happiness of childhood had suddenly vanished. Running out of class after break could be no more.

I was having my first period.

That day, I sat with one buttock, at an angle. I walked differently, I could not skip the rope, I could not sit outside during break, and I could not urinate outside the toilet like we used to do. I had to use the single toilet in my school after everyone. I did not want to leave drops of blood so the other girls could talk about me.

I thank God because my period came during my last year in primary school. I had soaked the piece of clothing by the second break. I knew I could soil my dress if I went to sit back in class that is why I feigned sickness.

I had thought that getting my period would be actually good. I remember the days when I worried that I hadn’t got it yet. I would hear other girls whisper about having their periods, and I would imagine that maybe I was abnormal.

Now, I wished it had never come. I wished I was born a man like my brothers. They would never need to change their games, they would forever sit comfortably — with no fear of soiling their clothes, no dose of abdominal pains either — jumping up and down all the days of the month.

Becoming a woman is not that easy.

It is a time when you find better uses for the old clothes. A time when the games you play must change; women don’t play jumping games, especially those in the village, because their sanitary towels may fall from their panties. Growing into a woman is the time that it dawns on you that missing school is inevitable. It is a time when you go through pain yet you cannot tell anyone, because then they’d find out you are in that time of the month.

No, women don’t do that.

I have heard stories of women who sit under the tree for all the days of their menses, as the earth absorbs the crimson red fluid that flows from within them. I have heard of others who use feathers to absorb the blood. I have used pieces of clothing, and for those who have not gone through that, I know you pity me.

Well, I pity those who use feathers.

I thank God that no one knows the future. I would have refused to grow up, but now I am happy that my time has come. I am using tampons and sanitary towels like all the cool women. It’s funny I did not get any infection from my pieces of clothes, but I guess I was luckier than most.

My concern, though, is that today, a young girl becomes a woman and is suffering like I used to: tearing up dirty pieces of clothes to put between her legs. I fear that she is misinformed; she thinks the period will end after a few hours. I fear that she is having dysmenorrhea (painful periods), but she has to cook for her brothers and fetch the water too.

Africa, let us remember that we have come a long way. We are almost developed now, but our girls still cut pieces of old clothes, wash them, and dry them in the sun after each period so they can be reused next month.

They risk infections, because they can’t afford to let their blood flow down through their legs to the earth, leaving a trail.

Let us remember those who become prisoners during that time, because they can’t leave home when they are on their periods. Why? Because there are no sanitary towels. And many are not exempt. Just see how the women are living in war-torn countries, havens of peace, and even some rich countries: they walk with rags between their legs.

SEE ALSO: Name & Shame: How We Crucify Victims of Oppression Without Crucifying System


Face2face Africa invites you to join us for our annual Pan-African Weekend July 25-27 in NYC, honoring Dr. Mo Ibrahim, Alek Wek, Femi Kuti, Masai Ujiri, Bethlehem Alemu, and Dr. Oheneba Bochie-Adjei. Click here for more details and register to attend.

Last Edited by:Abena Agyeman-Fisher Updated: September 15, 2018


Must Read

Connect with us

Join our Mailing List to Receive Updates