Mercy is a business woman in her twenties, she thinks the playground is an inspirational place for anyone looking for esteem lessons. As she watches the young children playing, she’s awed by the unbridled confidence and true personalities oozing from each of the little ones. They have great dreams and believe nothing can keep them from what they want to be, how beautiful.
However, a few years on, changes start to take place as adolescence kick in. The once self-assured kids are now more conscious of their differences as boys and girls, and most end up being restrained by their physical changes.
The girls are especially affected by one major change that recurs every month. It is almost like someone has put a terminal period on their life’s story. Playtime is no longer considered exciting, skipping school becomes the order due to excruciating pain and discomfort, or simply a lack of proper sanitary products.
Mercy worries that history might repeat itself in the life of Liz, her 10 year old daughter. Where all of a sudden, the once agile girl becomes a weakling. She fights an epic battle with herself and those around her, she succumbs to the stereotypes, among others, that being a girl is a bad thing. Dreams are put on hold, some are even forgotten to give way to what people say a woman should be.
This is a saddening and unexpected picture for the 21st century.
Women have 99 problems, but mensuration should not be the one that keeps any one of them from being the best they can be.
Flashback to the 80’s, while growing up in a remote village, Mercy was a smart girl who loved volleyball. She dreamt of touring the world and playing for the National Women’s Volleyball team while in college as she studied to become an engineer.
A dream was all that it remained. Puberty, took away her zeal and replaced it with self-pity and shame. She didn’t understand why her body was turning against her and she so she shied away from the things she enjoyed doing. The final blow came when one day she forgot to wear her cautious armor and quickly stood up to answer an algebra problem. The huge red stain on her pink dress left mouths gaping, tongues wagging and giggling whispers trailing her. All too much to bear, she quit school.
If only she had a mother and concerned aunties to warn her before it happened and to support her through it all. If only she did not have to use rags while hiding away for four days every month, if only she did not fall for the tricks from the same boys who mocked her, lies that having sex with them would make the bleeding go away. Then perhaps she would have been a great volleyball star and a top female engineer, unashamed of being a woman and excited to be a mother.
Mercy may have missed that bus, but she works hard to make sure her daughter and other girls in the village don’t. She donates sanitary towels and not only sensitizes the young ladies that periods are a normal part of womanhood, but also on the fact that nothing except themselves, can stop them from living out their fullest potential.
There is a Mercy and Liz in all of us, some of us have had nasty period experiences that make us hate being women and others have had great supporters who have made sure that periods are only a comma in our fruitful lives.
Always is running an initiative dubbed “Stand Up” campaign in Kenya. Stand Up is about encouraging Kenyan girls to live out their dreams and aspirations. The idea is to encourage girls and women to share their inspirational stories on how they are standing up to make their dreams come true. You can find out more by checking out the hashtag #AlwaysStandUpKE. Ladies you can share your stories as well.
Also stand up and support a girl to be confident of herself, to stay in school, to keep on dreaming, help others and do things she loves because she is a girl who can’t be stopped by anything until she is an unstoppable force to reckon with.
There is a video we watched awhile back that was amazing about how girls view themselves when they are told to act like a girl. Watch the social experiment like a girl by Always Sanity Pads which says it all.
Mwende Maritim is a budding freelance writer based in Nairobi, Kenya. She has always had a passion for well written content but began writing professionally in 2014. Her writing mainly covers lifestyle issues and anything to inspire people especially the teenagers she mentors.