Story by Zinhle Mbanjwa
My name is Mulamuleli Neswiswi, a student at UJ studying towards Bachelor of Education in the foundation phase Degree and I am doing my final year.
I am founder of Ndinoshamisa which in Shona means I am amazing. Ndinoshamisa is an online period essential store and an initiative. The main aim of the initiative is to end period poverty and the stigma associated with periods. The profit is used to give away period essentials to young girls in the Primary schools. I am also offering period education as well to young girls.
Many young girls start menstruating as early as Primary School. Due to lack of education they become ashamed which disturbs their day in school. Therefore, I saw a need to help these young girls walk into their womanhood with pride instead of shame. I do hope that I can continue offer these services to the school where I will be based once I start working.
I am including even the girls who have not begun their menstrual periods so that when the time comes, they will be well oriented to this beautiful and natural process a woman body goes through. It will also help young girls who begin their periods at school to freely talk to their teacher or parents at home about it, because at the moment they end up using unhealthy material such as tissue and so on.
Most of the young girls come from underprivileged home where they may not be in the position to afford period essentials.
The packaging of period essential is fun and exciting and that is because I want to change the mindset from shame and disgust to fun and pride.
I am doing this because of my own personal experience as a child. I started my periods in Grade 7 at the age of 12, I was able to tell my mother about it even though it was very difficult to tell her. When I told her that I found blood on my panty she explained to me that I was menstruating, she gave me the pad and explained to me how to use it.
Most black parents only tell you that you should stay away from the boys since you are now menstruating because you will get pregnant. That is the only period talk we get; they don’t get into the details of what is happening with our body and why.
Boys are also included in my period education because the boys also need to understand that this what girls go through, and it is a natural process, it is not a shame. Young girls that I spoke to also told me that they would never talk to any male figure about their periods.
Their reason to not talk to the male figures at home is based on the fact that they feel they cannot speak to someone who don’t have a vagina about their bleeding vagina.
Education should begin at home, yes, I can offer this education even the teachers can teach about periods, but parents and guardians have to play a leading role in teaching both boys and girls about their bodies. By the time they get to learn about it at school it will not be a taboo.
Fathers need to get involved in talking about periods with their daughters, this will help young girls get comfortable about talking to their fathers about periods.
The female body is sacred and very important because it is doing so much more than a male’s body, from this base both boys and girls need to understand the importance and sacredness of a woman’s body which includes menstruating. Even girls gossip about a girl who is menstruating, and I remember this while at school. We used to make a joke about another girl who has some blood stains on her pants. I was one of the girls who laughed at other girls because we lacked knowledge.
I asked the young girls if they could tell their male teachers if they need to change or change their pad, they said no ways, they said they would rather leave it as it is because they felt that they can never disclose to the male teacher that they needed to attend to their period.
Fathers and brothers at home should normalize buying pads as part of their shopping, it will help them get used to it. I can ask my father to get me pads because I have seen him buy for my mother and this what we need to see more of.
Period education is lacking in South Africa, 28th of May is menstrual hygiene day. I hosted an online event on social media platforms and almost all the females on that platform did not know about the 28th of May. So we need to do more in terms of period education because it is an extremely important thing for the country especially when you look at how it affects young girls.