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Caption:Lydia, 26, uses cotton sanitary pads when she is on her period, 'Even if it gives you pain, the fact that you have periods means that you are healthy and you are able to conceive in the future. It is something to be proud of and something that makes me feel feminine.' Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, April 2019
Credit:WaterAid/ Priya Sippy
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Lydia, 26, Kijitonyama, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

I use non-reusable pads from a brand called HC. I find them very comfortable because they are naturally cold and I experience very serious menstrual cramps. When I put them on, the cold helps to take away the pain and I feel comfortable and more relaxed. I just buy them from a shop at a price that I can afford.

When I had my first period I was playing with boys. I wasn’t in Dar, I was staying with my mum’s friend and when I came back home she did not have time to teach me. It was my Godmother’s daughter who taught me about all of these things. At the time I was using sanitary pads from ‘Always’ but they were not very comfortable, they were itchy and hot. So then when I started my university, a friend introduced HC pads to me. And also because my job is around menstrual hygiene management I’ve been able to be exposed to different products from tampons, to menstrual cups, to reusable pads. Ive got to use some of them but the moment I started using HC I found them more comfortable and I’ve been using them for around five years now.

Non-reusable pads work best for me. Once I’ve used it I know where I should put them, I know how to dispose of them properly. I feel I am more comfortable with them. If I use a reusable pad I will need to have time to wash them and I go out to work and come back late, so it just doesn’t work for me. For the cup and tampon it isn’t comfortable but maybe in the future I will try.

What I really care for in a non-reusable pads is making sure there is cotton, very few brands have the cotton on top. It makes it more soft. It doesn’t scratch your body and is not itchy. Any pad with cotton on top is cool with me.

I experience very serious cramps. Ever since school, sometimes I would be vomiting, having diarrhea and in serious pain. I would be in class but I couldn’t listen, so sometimes I would stay at home. Even now every first day of my period I prefer not to go to the office because I am seriously sick and when I go there I fail to deliver so I prefer to be home, just taking care of myself.

I’ve learnt to love my period and be proud of my period after I started my job and working in menstrual hygiene management. And that’s when I started to understand, even if it gives you pain the fact that you have periods means that you are healthy and you are able to conceive in the future. It is something to be proud of and something that makes me feel feminine. Now I am more confident. If I have cramps now and someone asks me what is wrong, I can tell them I am on my period and it is normal.
Before I couldn’t talk about it confidently but after being exposed I can speak about it.
For our country, we have still so much to do. Even though I grew up in the city, it is something my mum couldn’t even talk to me about it. When I was in school, you would have your period without you knowing and then you would be traumatized. I remember there was a point where I had my period in class and it was on my skirt and I had to go to the teacher to get a khanga to cover myself. There is still that silence, it is still not normal to talk about it.

Not everyone understands that periods are more than just blood. It is more than that. There is so much more to know about menstruation than blood flow.

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