Period Poverty: My REAL Most Embarrassing Moment

Period poverty: A girl laughs, face in her hands.

We all have that one most embarrassing moment story to tell, right?! Or for some of us, like me, wayyyyy more than one! Whenever I am asked to share my most embarrassing moment, I have one perfectly polished story to tell. It includes surgery on my middle finger, some unfortunate bandaging and snickering hospital staff. It makes people laugh every time.

But it’s not my real most embarrassing story.

The real story involves a 9-year-old and her period. Yup, I started my period at 9 years old. Thankfully I was at home and my mom immediately knew what was going on. That turned into a talk about maxi pads (the old style, 1-inch pads!) and how to care for myself during “that time of the month.”

One fateful 9-year-old day, however, I discovered that I didn’t quite know what I needed when it came to my body and menstruating. The pad I thought would last me all day didn’t, and I bled right through my jeans, onto my wooden desk seat. The teacher sent me to the nurse and my poor friends had to clean it up, while a concerned boy in my class asked if I cut myself. I wanted to leave school and not come back.

Still Embarrassed After All These Years?

Flash forward to menopausal me on my first Compassion employee trip to Rwanda. Me and a team of all men. Day two of our trip and I unexpectedly started my period. UGH!

As a grown woman, you’d think I wouldn’t have been embarrassed to tell my male boss that I just got my period and needed sanitary products, but I was. He was so kind and so was our male trip leader. They took me to a small, expat-run store where I could buy pads. (The same, 1-inch pads I wore as girl!) Tampons were not an option in Rwanda at that time.

The rest of our time in Rwanda I was terrified that I would have a repeat of my 9-year-old experience and bleed through my skirt. I was regularly checking the back of my skirt and stood on the sidelines while the rest of my group took turns running around a big circle in a game with the children. I missed out playing because I was too afraid to participate while on my period.

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There’s No Reason To Be Embarrassed

Feminine bodies are sacred, designed by God to work in a unique way, and that includes menstruation. Historically though, menstruation carries a stigma. It’s a taboo topic that still causes embarrassment for females of all ages living around the globe.

Honestly, it took me reading about the most amazing dads who started making reusable feminine hygiene products for their daughters, to see that, while I thought my period woes were unique to me, they were not.

My eyes have been opened to how important it is to address “period poverty” on behalf of girls living in low- and middle-income countries.

One UNESCO report estimates that 1 in 10 girls in sub-Saharan Africa misses school at least four days per month due to their menstrual cycle. One sponsored girl in Uganda, Caroline, had an embarrassing experience similar to mine. She nearly dropped out of school because of it!

Thankfully, puberty education and helping provide feminine hygiene products have proven to increase school attendance.

An Exciting Opportunity to End Period Poverty

Fighting period poverty: Six girls in colorful patterned dresses stand in front of a chalkboard.

At Compassion we are committed to upholding the dignity of the children we serve. Through child sponsorship we are able to teach young women in our program to understand how their bodies change as they grow older.

And right now, there’s a truly amazing opportunity to end period poverty in a girl’s life in Togo. Eight of our church partners are going to be offering their community menstrual education. They’re also going to train girls and women to make and sell washable sanitary pads. That way their community will have long-term access to reusable pads — and they’ll be equipping families to earn an income!

A picture of a girl holding a flowered cloth bag and colorful cloth pads.

Girls and women will be trained to make attractive and discreet washable pad kits.

Give Today! ›

Your donation will make sure girls won’t miss school and will understand menstrual hygiene. Above all, you will help girls and young women maintain their dignity during their period and reduce opportunity for embarrassment. Because we really shouldn’t be embarrassed by something God himself created.

You know what I find ironic? That through publicly sharing my most embarrassing story, I am no longer embarrassed by it. Now, I won’t be sharing it at the next office icebreaker, mind you. But I do love how God took one embarrassing moment and used it to raise awareness of period poverty, and give you an opportunity to end it!


We're spending this Lent advocating for girls living in poverty - for her. Learn More.

2 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Avatar
    Penny Proschold March 25, 2020

    Could our sewing group be involved in making washable pad kits?

    1. Avatar
      Shannon March 26, 2020

      Hi Penny,

      Thank you so very much for your kind heart want to dig in and help! Please know that Compassion USA headquarters cannot accept this type of donation directly. We are just not set up to ship items like this to our partner countries where these would be needed. We are also not allowed to direct you to send these items yourself directly to the country offices due to the security and cost of customs. However, if you were able to find someone who might be visiting one of our countries, they would be welcome to take the items and donate them in person, or ship them from the same country to the country office. For example, if you wanted to donate them to our young ladies in Rwanda, you could either find another sponsor who is traveling to Rwanda who could drop them off at our country office or someone who will be in Rwanda could ship them to the office from Rwanda. I know that is a little confusing. If you would like to talk more about these options, feel free to email our team at socialmedia@compassion.com. Thank you so much!

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