Crab Walk To The Horizon – Menstrual Health At The Coast

Kadzo, sits at the beach watching the waves rise and crush at her feet. The crabs walk to the distant left, and a part of her wishes that she could follow them to the ends of the horizon. A few weeks ago, she had a death scare. Or at least she thought it was, initially. She woke up to a mattress filled with blood, and upon further investigation, she realized that it was her blood. Her heart raced, as she wondered what was happening. Why it looked like she was bleeding to death in her bed.

Her mother, a fisherwoman, came from fishing and called Kadzo to wash the fish as she always did, but Kadzo would not move. Gravity and the flow of blood fastened her to her bed. After numerous threats, and exasperation from repeating herself while standing in the hot sun, Kadzo’s mother ventured into the house to find out what had gotten into her daughter and made her disobedient overnight.

She found Kadzo crying silently and staring at the blood on the sheets. She let out a little shriek, as this was not how she had expected her day to go when she rose before sunrise. Her baby, Kadzo, was now a woman. She was at a loss of words and didn’t know where to start, as she’d never broached the topic of ‘hedhi’ as she called it with her daughter.

Kadzo’s eyes locked with her mums, and she saw a sadness that was palpable, an image of her mama’s heart breaking. Kadzo’s mum got on her knees and embraced her daughter. Tears flowed down her cheeks as she looked for the words to explain what had just happened.

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Menstruation is nothing to celebrate in the village. It is seen as a flaw in nature, as a result periods are only discussed on a need to know basis. Facts and myths are weaved together in the pep talk. Once a girl reaches her menarche, everything changes, and she is viewed as a woman, old enough to be married and bear children. For the girls, it is beginning of the end of their dreams.

Communal beliefs about menstruation dictate how girls and women view themselves and are viewed by others when they are menstruating. The common narrative is that a woman is unclean and therefore unable to go on with life as usual.

65% of girls and women in Kenya do not have access to menstrual hygiene products, this means that they are forced to improvise and use materials such as newspaper, old rags, and mattresses. Some girls and women are forced to have transactional sex so that they can buy sanitary towels. Psychologically, their self-esteem and confidence are affected. Even though they have hygiene products, they may be scared of soiling themselves. Economically, they may lose income if they are unable to go to work due to pain, cultural taboos or lack of products.

Factual information is sparse, this is because there is no comprehensive menstrual health education offered to girls and women. Menstrual health education helps girls and women to understand their bodies, know more about the disposable and safe reusable products, know the warning signs to look out for and learn period hacks.

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Navigating your Menstrual Health Journey in The Workplace

Have you ever begged a toilet to fill up quickly so that you could flush it, and walk out before people start to question your potty-time?

I have, and it sucks. I have often found myself begging, pleading with the toilet to zap everything in one sweep. A faulty toilet can make a woman on the rag cry in a public bathroom.

A few years ago, I worked in a place that women had to carry their used sanitary products home. There was no provision for sanitary waste management. I wasn’t the only female employee, but I quickly realized that is the way things were and there was little that we could do to change it. With men at the helm, our needs were overlooked, and we didn’t stand up for ourselves. I chose to visit a nearby mall every time I needed to use the bathroom.

Menstruation is still a taboo topic in many places. With conditions that are far from ideal, it is no wonder that some women struggle to feel on top of their game during that time of the month. From sanitary products being inaccessible for some, to the lack of clean toilets and waste management, to the societal normalization of pain, it makes a simple bodily function seem like a life sentence.

Over the weekend, I hosted a support group meeting where we discussed menstrual health and the workplace. It was a refreshing, informative and interesting conversation. Some of the things we covered are lazy toilets, sanitary waste management services, normalization of pain, sick-offs, embarrassing moments, performance during your cycle, PMS, dismissal, disclosing invisible illness, the financial strain, gaps in your CV due to illness, and the role of insurance companies. Rosemary Akeya, the founder of HRM Connections, shared with us her knowledge and practical tips of surviving in the workplace as an endo warrior.

We have a long way to in achieving menstrual equity, but we can be the change that we desperately want to see. Let’s talk about menstrual health and shun the stigma around it.

#periodpositive

More colour, Less Gray

Happy new year!

I hope you had a lovely festive season.

For a long time I was indifferent to new years, the only new thing that it came with was an opportunity for me to wail in pain. In fact, a few years back I was convinced that the older I got the more excruciating the pain became. I longed to find the pause button in life, so that I could sift out the things that I loved and dwell on them.

Pain has a way of changing your life, it shifts your priorities and erases the rainbow in the sky. Both your happy and sad moments are processed through a gray-scale filter.

I still haven’t found the pause button but I have accepted that each year has it’s own beauty that I can dwell on. I am learning to live each day at a time and to remain grateful. Gratitude can illuminate the darkest of paths.

The truth is we don’t know what 2019 will hold, (I am not here to tell you that 2019 is your year…) but we know who holds it. While some curve balls may roll in our direction, I pray that we will experience the grace, peace, strength, joy and love that come from above. And that despite the pain, the rainbows will remain.

Here’s to 2019. A year of living life and finding joy in the little things.

3 Things to Consider this Festive Season

It is that week that temptation is everywhere we turn. The festive season is like a festival of temptation, the foods especially that you have been trying to steer clear from all year may be calling your name from the roof tops, yes, even that name that your friends do not know.

Before you say yes, remember that January is coming, and Aunt Flo is prepping her bag to cross over into 2019. With that in mind, we need to be careful. We know her ways, how easily upset she is, the tsunami-like tantrums she throws when things do not go her way.

Here are three things that I am taking into consideration as I celebrate Christmas this year.

Everything in moderation

A cheat-meal once in a while may not do much harm, depending on what the contents of the meal are. It is important to know your triggers, and try to avoid them. For the foods that cause minimal discomfort, remember to eat them in moderation. Don’t let the cheat meal become a week of lies that you will be paying for dearly in January.

Manage your energy

Christmas can be everything but relaxing, with the buzz of activity during the festive season, the people who want to see you and meals that need to be shared. As the carols fill the air, FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is laced between the lines of invitation texts.  The truth is that you will still survive if you do not do everything or say ‘yes’ to every offer. Conserve your energy and take time to rest. Do something that refreshes you and fills your cup.

Love on yourself

Take time out and think about all the wonderful things that have happened this year. Reward yourself for your wins, forgive yourself for the way that you feel like you have failed. Open a new page and give yourself a chance to dream again.

Allow yourself to dream, rest and believe as you prepare for 2019.

Merry Christmas!

Invitation To Partner

I could talk about periods all day long. What used to make me cringe and uncomfortable is now what make I have chosen to spend this season of my life talking about and training on.

I trained a group of ladies from Moi University a few days ago, and I loved it! There are way too many assumptions about menstrual health. The stigma surrounding menstrual health means that the lies have become truths, and there is no avenue to ask questions or to seek clarifications.

In some communities, girls are having sex soon after their menarche because the boys believe that sexual intercourse can cure cramps. Parents, religious insitutions and schools’s voices are faint compared to the uproar of their peers.

Sex is not a cure for for menstrual cramps. Pregnancy may provide temporary relief, but I believe that teenage pregnancy should not be a band-aid for underlying problems. Pregnancy and motherhood may come with other challenges.reach out and give someone a great big hug!.png

There is a great need out there. To some, this may just seem like just another period campaign, but it is more than just a period talk. It is the demolishing of myths, it is teaching of life-changing truths, it is the restoration of dreams and hopes, it is unveiling the – often-marred- beauty of being a woman. It is showing another side of the rose, while hoping to take away the memories of the prick of the thorn.

There are several opportunities that are coming up to train, inspire and mentor girls, and the truth is that I cannot do it alone.

If you would like to get to know more about the training sessions and how you can help to change a girl’s life, please send me an email via yellowendoflower@gmail.com.

 

A Conversation About Menstruation – MHDay2018

When we take away the shame that surrounds menstruation, girls and women will truly be able to walk in freedom.

Being born with a uterus should not be a disadvantage. Being born with a uterus should not stagnate your dreams. Being born with a uterus should not make you spend time away from school or work every month.

To commemorate Menstrual Hygiene day 2018, We For She organized an event at Ronald Ngala Primary School in Mombasa.

It was nice to see boys and girls eager to learn more about menstrual hygiene. A conversation about menstruation is one that we need to have with people of both genders. Menstruation is not optional, menstrual hygiene and health education should be prioritized.

I was invited to speak about menstrual health education and endometriosis. It was good to create awareness about endometriosis even to preteens. I urged the stakeholders present to offer comprehensive menstrual health education to the girls, including stressing the importance of understanding your hormonal functions and how to decipher your periods.

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The Mombasa County Women Representative Hon Asha Mohamed took the microphone and shared her journey with Endometriosis. Her vulnerability and willingness to share her journey was beautiful. We may be one in ten women, but we are more than just a statistic. We are mothers, sisters, wives, cousins, and friends to many other men and women. Our voices matter.

I applaud you Hon Asha Mohamed. Thank you for standing with us and for amplifying our voice.

Tina Leslie of Freeedom4girls shared about period poverty. The reusable menstrual products are a great alternative for girls and women who miss school and work because of lack of sanitary products. Also, these products are environmentally friendly.

The theme of this year’s Menstrual Hygiene days was #NoMoreLimits. Here’s to girls and women achieving their dreams and living their lives to the fullest.

 

 

Let’s Talk About Periods

I had a beautiful period last month.

It was a nice shade of red, bright, alive, a good summary that my hormone levels are getting better. It was a shade that I never saw in my teenage years. It made me happy, reminded me of how jolly my little one gets when she sees Elmo. Speaking of Sesame Street, a friend told me that she calls her period ‘Elmo’ and that my friends, is how I have closed the Furchester hotel in my mind.

It flowed like a stream, which is a relief since my period has always felt like the ocean on a bad day, like trying to kayak on choppy waters in a raging storm. I told hubby how good it looked, let’s just say that was not what he was expecting me to say. I have talked about periods for a long time, but this was a different narrative.

I love talking about periods. It is one of the topics I could give a talk on without prior preparation. Talking about periods is important. If I knew that my period should be bright red and runny as a teenage girl, I would probably have gone to a hospital sooner. Instead, I suffered in shame. I was horrified by the size of the clots, and the dark purple color was really nothing to write home about.

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We need to talk about periods openly and regularly. Too many girls and women are suffering in silence. So many dreams are unrealized because of menstrual health-related conditions and lack of supplies.

Monday 28th May is MH day 2018, the theme this year is #NoMoreLimits. If you are in Mombasa and you would like to meet up and have a conversation about menstrual health, please drop me a line via yellowendoflower@gmail.com

Please speak up, share your story, initiate a menstrual health and hygiene conversation with women and girls around you. Let them know that being born with a uterus should not be a disadvantage. We can all achieve our dreams.

#NoMoreLimits

Hemorrhoids. Be. Gone – 8 Home Remedies for Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids. The pain in the butt that no one ever wants to have.

Courtesy of Endo, I was acquainted with hemorrhoids at a tender age. I didn’t know what it was, but it seemed like the lesser evil compared to being backed up, thanks to chronic constipation. The bowel issues began before I was 10, and by the time I started my periods, Things Were Bad! During my periods, I would battle, cramps, heavy flow, and bleeding hemorrhoids. Just thinking about the pain gives me chills. Some months I wasn’t quite sure where the bleeding was coming from. It was a messy affair.

Over the years, things have gotten better. Here are some home remedies that I have tried and have worked:

1. Hydrate

Drink enough water, at least 6-8 glasses of water a day. The liquid will help to soften the stool.

2. Eat more fiber

Eat fiber-rich foods such as fruits, whole grains, and vegetables. The fiber will help to soften the stool. Reduce the intake of foods that trigger and worsen constipation.

3. Don’t push too hard

Avoid bearing down excessively when passing stool. It may put too much pressure on your veins.

4. Don’t postpone the urge to go

When you feel like using the bathroom, use the bathroom. The longer you wait, the stool will become dehydrated.

5. Don’t sit too long

Avoid spending to much time perched on the toilet seat. Reading on the toilet may cause more harm than good by straining your veins.

6. Keep the anus clean and dry

Avoid using things that can irritate the skin such as soap and wipes with alcohol. Wash the anus with water and pat dry. Wear loose, breathable materials.

7. Get moving

Adapt exercise into your lifestyle, it can help to ease the pressure on the veins. Also, losing excessive weight may take some pressure off the veins.

8. Use a step stool

Place a step stool infront of the toilet and step on it as you sit. Elevating your legs into a squat like position may help you pass stool with some ease.

There are topical creams available over-the-counter. However, if the pain, discomfort, and bleeding persists, please see a doctor.

Here’s to hemorrhoid and constipation free days.

 

 

 

Bloom

“It is well” is at the tail end of things that I like to hear in times of turmoil. It is a phrase that I heard in the gusts of pain and wondered how anyone could conclude that what felt like a near death experience was something to talk about on a positive note.

10 years ago as I writhed in pain, it was not well. My body was not well, my mind was not well, and, I was not well. Everything hurt; passing urine, bowel movements, ovulating and menstruating were all accompanied by pain. I hated the journey, and I didn’t have good things to say about life. I was drowning on dry land. A few months later, I began my journey to get a diagnosis, which changed my life even more. Endometriosis is a silent, seemingly subtle thief, that lurks in the night at first, and then becomes brash as it matures and steals unashamedly in broad daylight. The pain that I had been battling over the years was all linked to the painful and heavy periods but I had no idea.

Pain is a very good teacher, thankfully we do not all have to attend its classes, especially if we have other people to teach us. My experience through pain and life change bore a desire to teach what I wish I knew as a teenage girl. One year ago, I decided to put the lessons into a book.

Bloom is here

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I am stoked that it is a reality, Bloom is a product of tears, surgeries, questions, countless medications, and a desire to be the change that I want to see.

Bloom is your practical guide for your period journey. It describes how a normal period should look and feel like, it explores the sanitary product options, healthy practices that every female should employ and teaches girls and women how to keep a period diary, the different factors that they should look out for and it includes a one year period diary.

Keeping a period diary over the last couple of years has revolutionized my life. I am now more self-aware, able to identify patterns in my cycle, and kinder to myself, there is a kindness that stems from understanding. I am able to hear my body whisper before it forces me to lay down and listen to the opera of its screams.

Bloom is Ksh 500/=, to purchase it in Nairobi please contact Rosemary via 0731224223. To purchase in Mombasa please contact me via 0746622833 or yellowendoflower@gmail.com.

When you look at a rose from the top, it is difficult to see the thorns beneath the blossomed petals. Sometimes the exterior appearances make people doubt the pain, but just like the sting of the thorn is very real so is the invisible pain that has somehow been branded as normal.

Through the years I have learned to bloom despite the thorns.

Auntie Flo’s Words of Wisdom

Auntie Flo’ gave me a dose of common sense earlier this year. As she ended her TEN-day visit, which was much longer than she was welcome, she said, ‘Ess, I am the tip of the iceberg. I’m just here to show you what’s going on within.’

I was upset! First, you overstay your welcome, which is very expensive by the way. I didn’t know that many pads could be used in a month, then you want to get all ‘Snippets from a wise lady’ on me. Puh-lease.

But there is something about truth. It sinks into the deepest part of your soul unless you suffocate it with a blanket of ‘What-do-you-think-you-are-doing-here?’. I tried to use this blanket, but truth kicked like a baby in utero after the mama has had a cold sweet drink. I could just see the kicks all over, to boot, my soul, in the depths of my belly, was playing ‘Moves Like Jagger’ and I had to stop and listen to the music. It wasn’t a coincidence.

After you’ve bled for 10 days you sober up. Whatever stupor of denial you were in ends with immediate effect. And then you begin to process the words that were said.

Zen Function Wellness puts it really well, ‘Your period is like a report card, either reporting that you have fantastic hormonal balance, a nourished and well functioning system with easy, smooth, predictable periods, or that you may have a deeper health issue resulting in a not-so-great report card with irregularity, cramps, pain, nausea, severely erratic moods.

Knowing your cycle is actually a wonderful tool that women get to have to help keep track of their health status, a monthly report on if they should pay a bit more attention to their health and their bodies.’

The thing that I liked about report cards in school is that there was always room for improvement. In Class 3 I aced my Math test and the teacher wrote, ‘ Good job! The sky is the limit.’ Then, I was over the moon. Now I know that I should always strive for better. For well-balanced hormones, for smooth skin instead of fewer pimples, for a regular, pain-free period.

As I reviewed my period that month, I knew that I was failing. Auntie Flo’s extended visit was my body’s way of telling me that something was not right. That I needed to pay attention to my internal environment and make necessary changes. I am still recovering from that bad month, it affected my whole cycle by adding an extra day to my regular cycle, which is one day too long. But, I am working on getting my body back to normal.

This week I am doing a period audit, going over my period diary and plotting graphs to see the cycle from another perspective. When you zoom out, you see the bigger picture.

Have you done your period audit for the year? Here are some questions that can answer to get the conversation going,

How has your cycle been this year? Regular or Irregular? Painful?

What has your body been trying to tell you?

What changes are you making to boost your health?

If you would like to know what to look out for in your cycle, how to keep a period diary and chart the patterns, keep it locked here. My book ‘Bloom – A practical guide for your period journey’ is out this week. I am extremely excited to equip and empower more girls and women to track their periods and begin to decipher what their bodies are trying to tell them.

Happy Blooming!