Mens­trua­tion Around the World is series from Vul­vani that attempts to show the diver­sity of mens­trual expe­ri­en­ces around the world. We por­tray people from dif­fe­rent coun­tries with their per­so­nal sto­ries. Let us explore the won­der­ful and so diverse world of mens­trual expe­ri­en­ces tog­e­ther. And who knows, maybe you got your first period at school as well?

Living in a school hos­tel for most of her child­hood and teenage years, Hilma natu­rally got her first period at school. Hilma is from Nami­bia, where mens­trua­tion is a topic that is not often openly tal­ked about. In our inter­view, howe­ver, she freely shares her per­so­nal period expe­ri­en­ces with us and talks about her tea­chers awe­some reac­tion when she star­ted blee­ding at school. Dear Hilma, thank you so much for this won­der­ful interview!

Personal Information

Name: Hilma
Age: 22
Gen­der / Sex: Female
Coun­try of birth: Nami­bia
Home: Windhoek, Nami­bia
Job: Accoun­ting and Finance Intern
Age at first period: 13
Favo­rite period pro­duct: Kotex Pads
Cost per mens­trua­tion: +\- N$60 (3,60 US$ / 3,00€)
Con­tracep­tion: None

1. How is menstruation seen in your family, culture or even country?

From what I know, mens­trua­tion is one of the topics that are hardly spo­ken about openly. As little girls, we were so young and sca­red to even men­tion that you’ve star­ted see­ing blood in your pan­ties. Because society made us believe that only girls who became sexu­ally active at a young age will get their period earlier.

2. How and by whom were you educated about menstruation?

Gro­wing up, I became quite inde­pen­dent at a very young age. Since most of my school years, I have lived in school hos­tels. I first had a con­ver­sa­tion about mens­trua­tion with a coach at my school. Her role as a coach was to teach and edu­cate us on things like STDs, drug & alco­hol abuse, our bodies and just gene­ral issues that our par­ents hardly spoke about. So the coach had a ses­sion with us girls one day, where she spoke mainly about peri­ods. We openly asked her ques­ti­ons about what pro­ducts we can use and how to use them (she demons­tra­ted). She advi­sed us on where to buy the pro­ducts when that time comes.

Menstruation around the world, first period at school, menarche, erste Periode, erste Menstruation, erste Periode in der Schule, periods around the world, period stories, period taboo, menstrual taboo, period stigma, periods in Namibia, Hilma, Vulvani, Menstruationstabu, Menstruation in Namibia,

Photo Credits: Hilma

3. Tell us a little about your first period at school.

I got my first period at school because I used to reside in the school hos­tel at that time. So I was super lucky because I also had an arts tea­cher who was really nice and easy to talk to. The good thing about my period is: On the first day, I don’t really get any stains on mys­elf, because my period sort of gives me a signal. So that day while at school, I felt a little une­asy down there (wet). So when I went to the restroom, I saw some brow­nish discharge in my pan­ties. I didn’t really panic as I was sort of aware of some signs of one’s period. I went to my arts tea­cher and told her about it. She escor­ted me to their office storer­oom where they kept some pads for lear­ners and showed me how to use it.

4. How do you feel about your menstruation?

When I was youn­ger, I found it really annoy­ing and really just felt like it was too much work. But this fee­ling chan­ged as the years went by. I star­ted to appre­ciate my period, even though the blee­ding is a little uncom­for­ta­ble because I mostly have heavy flows. I really just feel good about it. It makes me feel like a woman. And it gives me more pride in mys­elf as a woman! It’s amazing!

5. Which menstrual products have you already tried?

I haven’t tried any other pro­ducts apart from pads!! I have just made an assump­tion that tam­pons are uncom­for­ta­ble and anything else that’s not a pad, will annoy me. The­re­fore I have only used pads.

6. What do you like to do when on your period?

I get quite heavy mens­trual cramps, so I just like to be on my own. I take short walks if I have to. And I also like to lis­ten to music.

Menstruation around the world, first period at school, menarche, erste Periode, erste Menstruation, erste Periode in der Schule, periods around the world, period stories, period taboo, menstrual taboo, period stigma, periods in Namibia, Hilma, Vulvani, Menstruationstabu, Menstruation in Namibia,

Photo Credits: Hilma

7. How are you feeling when menstruating?

I get really moody and I’m annoyed by little stuff because the cramps make me really weak. So I really just pre­fer to be left alone. I like to eat hot food. Actually I like to just have some­thing to chew on. Food like candy takes off the focus from the dis­com­fort. And that way I can for­get about the pain a little. One tip that truly works for me: Warm/cold towels. There are days when I feel like some­thing cold would do. So pres­sing a cold towel against my abdo­men and lower back helps. On some days the body wants warm com­pres­sion, so I do the same.

8. Who are you talking to about menstruation?

My sis­ters and female cou­sins. It’s just more com­for­ta­ble to talk to people who actually under­stand peri­ods and who are able to con­struc­tively con­tri­bute to the topic.

9. Do you have a particular funny, embarrassing or important story about menstruation?

My peri­ods are quite regu­lar and I also use an app to track them, the­re­fore I haven’t really had any sur­pri­ses from my peri­ods. Alt­hough there was a time I bought really huge pads (I didn’t read the size as I was in a hurry). And so when I wore the pad the fol­lowing day, the first thing that one girl (Nadia) noti­ced was the huge pad. She poked her friend and went like, damn look how Hilma’s pad is showing!! So the friend was kind enough to come up to me and say, your pad is so visi­ble and we can tell it’s really huge. I had to figure some­thing out and change the pad… So yes, size does mat­ter too.

10. Want to share anything else about menstruation?

My period lasts for about 6 days and I was always a bit con­cer­ned about that because it see­med a little too long. So one time I gathe­red my cou­rage and spoke to my doc­tor about it. She told me that a nor­mal period lasts bet­ween 3-7 days and that actually not­hing is wrong with me. Also since mine are actually very regu­lar, she said I had not­hing to worry about. The relief!!!

Menstruation around the world, first period at school, menarche, erste Periode, erste Menstruation, erste Periode in der Schule, periods around the world, period stories, period taboo, menstrual taboo, period stigma, periods in Namibia, Hilma, Vulvani, Menstruationstabu, Menstruation in Namibia,

Photo Credits: Hilma

Do you want to become part of ‘Menstruation around the world’?

We hope to be able to pre­sent the por­traits of mens­trua­ting people as varied and diverse as pos­si­ble. And for this we need you – no mat­ter how you feel about your own mens­trua­tion or where you come from! If you would like to be part of this series and share your per­so­nal expe­ri­en­ces and thoughts about mens­trua­tion with us, please write us a mes­sage or sim­ply fill out this ques­ti­onn­aire (anony­mously is also pos­si­ble). We are already loo­king for­ward to sharing your story with the Vul­vani community!

Britta Wiebe, period education, Vulvani
Britta 
Co-Foun­der Vulvani | britta@vulvani.com | Web­site | + posts

Britta Wiebe is the co-foun­der of Vul­vani. She loves rese­ar­ching, wri­ting and designing new arti­cles or inno­va­tive edu­ca­tio­nal con­cepts about mens­trua­tion all day long. When she is not tra­vel­ling the world, she enjoys spen­ding time with her loved ones in the beau­ti­ful city of Ham­burg in Germany.