A lot of us first learned about our periods through awkward talks with our parents or cringe-worthy sex-ed classes. And unfortunately, many of the messages we received may have carried negativity or shame. So it would've been pretty cool to learn about periods through cute, colorful comics. Thankfully, the Menstrual Matters campaign is now giving girls that chance with a new three-part series. Pakistani sexual-health activist Samreen Shahbaz launched the comics earlier this month in partnership with CFx Comics to provide a non-threatening, positive, accessible way for kids to learn about periods. The comics, written by Moneeza Burney, Mina Malik, and Zoha Awais, take place in Pakistan and are available for download on Menstrual Matters' website in both English and Urdu. Poster versions of them have also been printed for schools in the Pakistani city of Lahore, Burney told Refinery29.
"Signs of Your First Period" starts off with a girl named Alizay looking for her friend Ayesha. She finds her in the school bathroom, and she's concerned because she's been bleeding but doesn't recognize this as her period. So she gets the teacher, who reassures her that there's "nothing to be embarrassed about." The teacher gets a pad, and when the girls return to class, she explains periods and other aspects of puberty. "You should learn to embrace it because it's a part of growing up!" she says. The girls leave class happy and calm.
The second installment, "10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Had My First Period," features Alizay's big sister telling her about periods. The third in the series hasn't come out yet. Shahbaz told The Nation that, in Pakistan, many kids learn myths about menstruation that get in the way of their lives — myths such as they can't take baths or eat spicy foods during their periods. She wanted to provide them with accurate information and dispel some of the fear surrounding menstruation in her culture. "People have always been more receptive to imagery than abstraction," Shahbaz told us. "In our comics, we have used visuals and graphics along with storylines that most young girls can easily relate to." "The interesting thing about the comics is that we have used menstruation as an entry point to talk about and demystify the female reproductive system using very simple language and graphics," she added. "While it was challenging to write a script that would be fun to read as well as easy to understand for young girls, we felt that the final product and the subsequent overwhelming response to the comics have made it all worthwhile," said Burney. "Through the comics, we hope to raise awareness about menstrual hygiene and help dispel myths associated with menstruation in an effective manner." Hopefully, presenting menstruation in such a fun format can also help teach kids that it's nothing to be afraid or ashamed of. In fact, considering the complicated reason why we have periods in the first place, the fact that women menstruate is actually pretty awesome.
The gap between what we learned in sex ed and what we're learning through sexual experience is big — way too big. So we're helping to connect those dots by talking about the realities of sex, from how it's done to how to make sure it's consensual, safe, healthy, and pleasurable all at once. Check out more here.