Murshida, a Bengali woman in her late twenties working in London, described her experience getting her first period in her home country of Bangladesh.
“When you get your first period it’s like an “Oh No!” says Murshida. “ But here [in the UK], it means you’re independent – a sign of growing up. In my country, they see it as a negative thing.
“When I had my first period, my mum deeply sighed. For the mother, it is stressful. She can’t imagine that I have any love relationship with anyone. When you are 16/17-years-old and you have a love relationship with someone – obviously you get intimate. But it’s totally restricted. So she was concerned. She told me: ‘Make sure you do not get involved with any boy!’
“If you got pregnant, your life will be destroyed. You will be described as a bad person. And ‘I am not a virgin’ meant a lot at that time. Now it’s getting better. Now, no one cares about it to be honest.”
During her period, Murshida explained how she could, for the most part, do whatever she wanted, except for some religious things like touching the prayer mat or taking part in daily prayer. When her period finished, she’d have to wash all of her bedsheets and bed covers, and then take a deep shower (“paksha”) where she’d cut her nails, wash her hair very well and remove underarm and pubic hair.
Murshida emphasised how important it was that she hid her period products so no man would see them. “When I got my period I used to buy pads from the chemist. When I said I wanted a sanitary napkin, the guy wrapped the pad in newspaper. I didn’t ask him to wrap it, but he did. This is something you have to hide. This is something you have to hide all the time. It’s changing now. But not as much as we wish.”
Now that she lives in the UK, Murshida appreciates how much more open it is here. “I think in this country, you don’t mind saying: ‘Oh, I’m on my period, I’m having some pain.’ I think you don’t mind saying this here – like loudly. We can’t imagine that in Bangladesh.”
Check out our other article on why our periods can be painful and how to make that time of the month a little easier.
As a mother of two girls, she adds: “I don’t mind if my daughters aren’t shy about it, I’m happy – I don’t want them to be shy about it. But I had to be.”