All women deserve the right to menstruate safely, comfortably, and with dignity

Fatimah is a 27-year-old Rohingya refugee living in Malaysia. She leads a community project by the Rohingya Women's Development Network which produces reusable sanitary napkins for vulnerable women.

Fatimah leads a project producing reusable sanitary napkins for vulnerable women
© UNHCR/AliaSurayya

“I got my first period when I was 9 years old. I had never been told about expecting menstruation. I woke up in the morning with blood running down my legs and I panicked. I was bleeding, but I didn’t feel any pain, and didn’t understand what was happening to me. I didn’t talk to anyone about it for three days because I was too scared. I was sure I did something wrong to cause me to bleed. I put on 10 layers of underwear so that no blood seeped out.

Finally, I told my mother. She asked me why I hadn’t informed her sooner, then she gave me a sanitary pad to use. She didn’t show me how to use it, and I was too embarrassed to ask.

My 14-year-old sister started menstruating last year. My sister has access to education. She was taught the female reproductive system so she understands what is happening to her body. But I wanted my sister to have more support that I did. So the first time she menstruated, I taught her how to use a sanitary pad, how often she should change it, and how to properly dispose of it. I told her the importance of keeping good hygiene during menstruation.

I wish that the subject wasn’t so taboo. I wish I had this support and knowledge when I was younger. All women deserve the right to menstruate safely, comfortably, and with dignity.”

Fatimah is a 27-year-old Rohingya refugee living in Malaysia. She leads a community project by the Rohingya Women’s Development Network which produces reusable sanitary napkins for vulnerable women.

Menstrual hygiene for refugees is more than just a need. It is a human right. #MenstrualHygieneDay