Embracing the Stain Without Any Shame
Officially defined, “period poverty” means lack of access to menstrual products and education. However, its effects can contribute to a lifetime of actual poverty for girls and young women as a result of years of missed school days cascading into missed opportunities for a better life. To address this unfair disadvantage, Vision Africa developed and implemented “My Stain, No Shame,” an education program designed to desensitize the topic of menstruation and provide both knowledge and supplies to girls and young women.
Sarafina Nwokenta, Vision Africa Chief Operating Officer and a licensed reproductive health consultant, is the lead developer of the program and also its presenter at a growing number of schools in Nigeria. “There’s a lot of stigma surrounding menstruation in Nigeria, and throughout Africa,” Nwokenta said. “It’s really sad to see that girls aren’t allowed to talk about it openly, either with their peers or even in their families. It’s not a subject parents can easily broach at home.”
“We are happy that we can show young people that menstruation is a natural biological process that should never carry shame.
As a result, many African girls—including Nwokenta—experience their first menses without any information or understanding of what’s happening to their bodies. Instead of seeing it as a natural progression to womanhood, girls are scared, confused, and worried. Since the subject is “taboo,” they also feel shamed by society, as if they’ve done something wrong, but they have no idea what that was. Consequently, their embarrassment, lack of supplies to manage their periods, and fear of accidents in public mean that many girls don’t attend school for the first three, four or even more days of their cycle. Month after month of missing this much instruction can begin to pile up and cause girls to fall behind in their studies.
“My Stain, No Shame seeks to alleviate our poor conditioning around menstruation and then help girls help each other through it,” Nwokenta said. “And, just as important, we help young men understand how to be supportive of girls in this natural process. We want them to understand how to be sensitive to their classmates or their sisters. We encourage them to recognize what’s going on and to lend a hand, offer her their cardigan, be a friend.”
In fact, “To be a friend, just be a friend,” has become the unofficial slogan of the program among students, who use the chant to show support of one another and make the subject less sensitive. “We are happy that we can show young people that menstruation is a natural biological process that should never carry shame. In fact, it is something to be proud of because it is a step toward womanhood, and if they choose it, motherhood,” Nwokenta said.
VISION AFRICA CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER & licensed reproductive health consultant SARAFINA NWOKENTA presents
“MY STAIN, NO SHAME”
As the program has broadened, more and more school administrators are asking for My Stain, No Shame for their students, as well. They appreciate the camaraderie it promotes and the opportunity it gives female students to stay in school and build their own confidence and self-esteem.
Your gift of only $10 will provide feminine hygiene products to one girl for one month and help bring this program to girls desperate for the help. If you are called to help us eliminate period poverty for thousands of young girls, click on the donate button below, and partner with us in this life-changing work.