At the age of 11...
Some of us face challenges that can affect our school routine. Even if the challenges vary from one person to another, one that young women can face is menstruation. When Benitha, a 13-year-old primary student from Rubavu had her first period, she was scared to tell her mother. This, along with menstrual cramps made her skip school and her grades suffered. Today, thanks to the support from her mother and other useful tips she learned at school, menstruation is no longer a barrier to Benitha’s education.
At the age of 11, Benitha got her first period but was scared to tell her parents because she felt embarrassed. As a result, she didn’t have access to sanitary pads and instead used old pieces of kitenge (coloured fabric), without knowing exactly how to use them. She also had terrible menstrual cramps and couldn’t go to school. Benitha’s mother noticed that she was missing school and talked to her about it. But instead of telling her mother that her period was causing pain, she lied and said she had a headache.
Benitha started to fall behind in class and became very upset. Eventually, she decided to tell her mum the truth so that she could help. “I thought about the poor grades I was getting, and how I used to ace my tests, and I felt really sad. My mother and I are really close; I decided to be open and honest with her.” Her mother told Ni Nyampinga that she was really glad her daughter found the courage to confide in her as a friend: “I comforted her, gave her sanitary pads and showed her how to properly clean herself.”
The following month when she got her period, Benitha was able to use proper sanitary materials. While one challenge had been solved, she still had cramps that forced her to miss school. When Benitha was in Primary Five, during reproductive health class, her teacher shared tips on how to handle menstruation cramps. These include drinking hot beverages and doing exercise to lessen the pain. “At that time, I went to see the teacher and asked all the questions I had. The teacher told me to try running and skipping.”
At Benitha’s school, they have a one-hour sports class every week and these days Benitha can’t miss it for the world. She even exercises when she has her period and drinks hot beverages that her mother prepares. Benitha’s cramps have reduced, and now she goes to school with a happy face, “I no longer skip school. I attend regularly, interact with my classmates and I excel like I used to.” We hope Benitha’s story will encourage all Ni Nyampingas who have difficulty attending school regularly. It’s always good to seek support from your parents, teachers or any adult you trust. Remember to plan your school responsibilities and other duties well, so that you have time for studying and yourself.