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.

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.

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. Because we really shouldn’t be embarrassed by something God himself created.

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4 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Carol Hetler April 18, 2020

    I would like to write to children who do not receive mail. I currently sponsor a child in Eugandia. I generally average about 8 letters a month some on the Internet or a letter sent to headquarters.

    I feel that I could help other children thru letter writing. Please keep me in mind as I would love to make good use of my time spat home.

    I am a retired para-professional and have worked in the school system for 28 years. I was a special education aide, but I feel I could be of help.

    1. Shannon April 20, 2020

      Hi Carol,
      Thank you so much for your amazing heart to not only want to sponsor, but also become a correspondent for another child! We would be honored to connect you with a child you could write to! Can you please email us at [email protected] with your sponsor number and let us know if you have any preferences on gander, age or country? From there, we can get you all set up. Thank you so much!

  2. Penny Proschold March 25, 2020

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

    1. 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 [email protected]. Thank you so much!

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