If there is anything that makes the heart of a teenage girl skip a bit…its their first day on the other planet .
The first occurrence of the much anticipated menstruation in a female is known as Menarche , this marks the beginning of a new journey in life . A journey where some things still remain one of natures secrets,where certain questions have no answers. A journey where you have to face your fears with a smile otherwise they would end up overpowering your passions in life. Its called the “journey of Womanhood”. A journey that is littered with challenges but worth taking.
In the Shona culture Menarche is taken as a full initiation into adulthood as one can now bring their own child into the world. Menstruation is one of those things that makes woman feel feminine enough. However for most girls it feels like being forged into the furnace of Womanhood as they experience extreme period pains when its their time of the month.
These severe pains are known as dysmenorrhea which is known as Jeko in our native language. Dysmenorrhea has two categories the primary (Gadzi) and the secondary (Gono).
Primary dysmenorrhea refers to those normal cramps experienced during menses as a result of the body cleaning our reproductive system. The effects of primary dysmenorrhea deteriorate as people age .It is easily controllable with painkillers. However Secondary dysmenorrhea is caused by diseases or defects in the reproductive organs such as fibroids ,tumours,STIs ,ovarian cysts and infections in the fallopian tubes.
Jeko is also a result of hereditary conditions or genetic defects such as a uterus that tilts backwards instead of forward which makes it contract resulting in limited blood movement. Eventually clots or pieces of blood tissue develop from the uterus lining as it sheds off which makes the blood struggle to exit. This gives rise to a great deal of unbearable ,acute labour like pains. At times the pain can be so excruciating such that one has to go to the changing room to remove the blood clots to ease the pain. You can imagine an eleven year old kid undergoing such an agonising experience.
Jeko is really not one of those life threatening diseases but it can be such a seriously taxing experience. Dysmenorrhea does not only affect the physical body but also has a huge impact on the quality of life that a woman lives .
So many young ladies with beautiful gleaming faces ,red lipstick and red heels ,look like their lives are blossoming when they are enduring sleepless nights behind closed doors. The voice of a girl child is drowned in the name of “menses are supposed to be a secret”. That is typically how the society has groomed a female child.
One day as I was working in a certain company , a sudden sharp pain swept over my lower abdomen then I knew trouble was brewing. In this crucial department I was the only lady working with male counterparts. So I knew the time of the month had come but I couldn’t tell anyone. After a few minutes the pain intensified ,I could not bear it anymore. It felt as if someone was shredding my abdomen into pieces with the sharpest blade in this world. I started feeling very hot as if my feet were being roasted on hot sand. I felt nauseated but could not even move my legs. I could not help it but ask my Supervisor for a sick leave. However he declined it and asked me what would happen if all the other women frequently asked for leave like I did. I understood him because he did not understand what I was going through. According to him I was rated the incompetent worker. Tears started rolling on my chicks ,I wept like a baby. I was walking through hell barefooted. .At times the road of womanhood can be quite spiky.
We are living in a world were ambitious woman have become beacons of change in so many aspects of life advocating for matters like gender equality, early child marriages,domestic violence,child abuse but have left an indoor problem unsolved.
Yes the pain is real and the torment is really true but that doesn’t make women a sorry site.
Lessons to overcome our problems have actually become the roots of our strength. It is said the purest strongest metals come from then hottest blazing furnaces.
My word to all those who are suffering from these cramps is let us all rise to the occasion so that we escape the scourge of Dysmenorrhea.
The only way we can fight dysmenorrhea is by firstly tackling the issue of myths and social stigma of menstruation around women. There is need to sufficiently educate the society using the top down and bottom up approach so that everyone ..l mean people from all walks of life understand that menses are just a normal biological process that is the same as moustache growing on a boy’s chin. Raising awareness is not a job confined to women. We would greatly appreciate if men were also involved in advocacy and campaigns to fight dysmenorrhea.
It all begins with You and I.
By Liz Kanyamura
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