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 smash the period taboo together!

Even though Almas grew up as a curious child expe­ri­men­ting with dis­po­sable pads, nobody exp­lai­ned to her the pur­pose of them – even after asking about it mul­ti­ple times. She is from India and was brought up in a society the period taboo runs deep and tal­king about peri­ods is still a shame­ful thing. Today she shares her story of how she became com­for­ta­ble tal­king to over hund­reds of mens­trua­ting people about peri­ods. Thank you so much, Almas, for beco­m­ing com­for­ta­ble tal­king about peri­ods and actively brea­king the period taboo through education.

Personal Information

Name: Almas Zareen
Age: 21
Gen­der / Sex: Woman / Female
Coun­try of birth: India
Home: Luck­now, India
Col­lege: Bachelor’s degree in Social Work
Age at first period: 13
Favo­rite period pro­duct:I have always used sani­tary pads. Still have not tried any other pro­duct
Cost per mens­trua­tion: 150 Rupees / 2,03$ (eff. 8th Sep­tem­ber 2020) 
Con­tracep­tion method: Con­dom

1. How is menstruation seen in your family, culture or even country? How about the period taboo?

Since the begin­ning, mens­trua­tion has been a taboo in India. Mens­trua­tors are not allo­wed to sit in the place where we wor­s­hip. We are not allo­wed to sit with our fami­lies, thus, discri­mi­na­ting against us whenever we are on our peri­ods. It is sad that people think that mens­trua­tion is only a WOMAN’s ISSUE. The society is igno­rant towards the trans people and only a few know that even trans men bleed. Our society thinks that one should not talk about such topics in the open because it is against the Indian cul­ture. When it comes to my own family, we were never allo­wed to talk about it in front of our father.

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Photo Credits: Almas

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

My older sis­ter told me about peri­ods and the fun fact is that she did not tell me what it really was. I just knew that I have to use the sani­tary pads in a par­ti­cu­lar way whenever I start blee­ding and I should always carry one with me in case of an emergency.

3. Tell us a little about your first period.

I was sit­ting with my sis­ters when one of them noti­ced that I had stai­ned my clothes. Both of them were like now you have grown up, this is a sani­tary pad. You have to stick it on your underg­arment so that it can soak up all the blood. Neit­her was I pre­pa­red nor did I ever think of ques­tio­ning anything else about it.

4. How do you feel about your menstruation?

In the begin­ning, during my teenage years, mens­trua­tion was a taboo. I never tal­ked openly about it, not to my sis­ters, not to my friends. There were code words like, “I AM DOWN” or “HAPPY BIRTHDAY”. And I never felt the need to talk about it. But in 2019, I inter­ned with one of the lea­ding NGOs in India – GOONJ and that is where my life tur­ned upside down. I got to know what hap­pens with the wea­ker sec­tion of the society, how important it is for us to talk about mens­trua­tion and to break the silence around it. That is where I learnt that MENSTRUATION IS A HUMAN ISSUE and NOT A WOMAN’s ISSUE. And I have been chan­ting this man­tra since then.

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menstruation around the world, period taboo, menstrual taboo, period stigma, periods in india, menstruation in india, almas zareen, vulvani

Photo Credits: Almas

5. Which menstrual products have you already tried?

I never had the cou­rage to switch from sani­tary pads to some other pro­duct. So I have always used sani­tary pads. Might change the pro­duct after COVID-19.

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

Every time I have my period, I love watching movies. And my energy and pro­duc­ti­vity is high all the time, except on the first day. I do have a lot of mood swings. And there are times when I also cry for no rea­son, which I think is good because it is cathar­tic in its own way.
During my mens­trua­tion, some­ti­mes I do not like wea­ring jeans.

7. How are you feeling when menstruating?

I would not go around and say that mens­trua­ting is a bles­sing becaue it really is pain­ful but YES ! It is nor­mal.
I gene­rally drink more water when menstruating.

8. Who are you talking to about menstruation?

I talk to ever­y­body about mens­trua­tion because there is not­hing to be shy about. It is as nor­mal as pregnancy.

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

I was a really curious child. So at the age of 9 or 10, I used to pee on sani­tary pads thin­king that it was meant to be used by women to pee on it when they were out for work and did not have the faci­lity of washrooms due to hec­tic sche­du­les. So YES, IT WAS MEANT FOR BLADDER CONTROL accord­ing to me. Later in life, this myth got busted.

10. Want to share anything else about the period taboo?

Since 2019, along with my stu­dies, I have been working with women belon­ging to the mar­gi­na­li­zed sec­tor of the society, BREAKING THE SILENCE around peri­ods and making it nor­mal. I have worked as an indi­vi­dual and as interns with NGOs so that I could reach out to more and more people. Until this date, I have worked with more than 500 women, lea­ding ses­si­ons with them, making them under­stand the phy­sio­logy of peri­ods along with bus­ting their myths and brea­king the period taboo.

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Photo Credits: Almas

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.