Easy to Assume
One day, a friend of mine started her periods while at school. That was also the one day that I was not carrying an extra napkin in my bag. The good thing is that I knew that the other girls from my shelter home carried an extra napkin too. I was able to meet only four of them over lunchtime and realized that none of them were carrying their extra one today. A friend who overheard my conversation suggested I meet our principal with my friend and get her a napkin. Our principal kindly gave me a sanitary napkin which I gave to my friend.
In all this rush, the one thing that skipped my mind is the fact that it was her first period. She had a rough idea about periods and knew about sanitary napkins from tv, but no one tells you on tv how often you need to change them. The next day in school, I was sitting next to my friend when I realized that she was giving out a strong odour. I asked if she had had a shower, she confirmed. Then I learned that she hadn’t changed her napkin since yesterday because she did not know that she had to. Thankfully, I was carrying my extra one that day and offered her my napkin to change into.
I felt really bad about this incident because just a few days back I was getting judgmental about a staff member from my shelter who simply handed handed out a sanitary napkin to another girl without explaining anything about it. This girl had just come in from a village and was on her period. She was handed a napkin, which she did not know how to use, so just kept it on her underwear like she would have kept a piece of cloth and walked out of the toilet. After a while, her clothes were stained again and the staff scolded her for being careless. On seeing her scared and confused about this, I went up to speak with her only to realize that she had never seen a disposable napkin before. She did not know that the sticker needed to be peeled for the napkin to stick to her underwear and for the surface to absorb the blood.
Back then, I was really irritated with that lady for not telling a young girl how to use a disposable pad and here I was, just a few days later doing something similar with a friend who just had her first period. Makes me think how easy it becomes to miss out on sharing these small and such trivial-sounding pieces of information, assuming that ‘obviously she would know about it’.
Turns out that this is not just in our shelter home, even my friends from school who come from regular homes are never explained the same. We watch blue liquid on sanitary napkins on tv, get scared when we actually have red liquid coming out of our bodies, and then are given a pad that we don’t know how to use, are not told about infections, are unaware of the medicines that we can take and how to deal with period cramps. There absolutely is no information about something that we are told again and again that ‘happens to every girl’. One would wonder that if there was something that happened to every girl in the world, information on the same would also be available to every girl too.