Hey Ladies, Let’s Talk About Our Bodies

Have you ever read those incredibly real and personal coming of age stories? Flip through any Glamour, Teen Vogue or scan through your Facebook feed and you will find them. Many of these stories are filled with embarrassing tales and dramatic moments. Stories such as the girl who walks into the boy’s toilet on the first day of middle school. The teenager who leans in for her first kiss and then misses completely. We can’t forget about the girl who really should not have worn white pants to school. Yes, this is when over-sized sweatshirts and best friends come in handy. Awkward?

Read on ladies. This is one of those stories.

We have to admit we love reading them. These stories remind us of our teenage years. We laugh because the awkwardness is funny but mostly we laugh because we can relate. All I have to say is: Solidarity Sisters. Am I right? If you are a teenager, keep reading because it definitely gets better. Even now, I think about my teenage self (I just turned 31 a few weeks ago) and laugh mostly because at the time I did not need anything in my life to be more awkward, let alone puberty!

The journey to understanding my body goes back to my friend Brittany’s slumber party. Isn’t that where all dramatic teen events occur? In comparison to my friends, I was a late bloomer. Most of my friends started their periods at age 11, 12, or 13. I remember thinking: Is there something wrong? Thirteen came and went and I still had not experienced this significant rite of passage. Growing up in America, my mother and other women in my life taught me how special and important this moment was supposed to be. I knew the facts and I was prepared. When the day finally came, yes, at Brittany’s slumber party, I felt very unprepared. What was happening to my body? I remember the rush of emotions. Sadness, discomfort, embarrassment and mostly relief.

I remember thinking: Am I now officially a woman?

The morning after, I came home to discover my mom had announced the event to her entire friend group. Yes, she explained to over fifteen women, I indeed was now a woman. Her friends surrounded me and congratulated me. Let’s keep those awkward teen moments coming. The reality is talking about menstruation, reproductive health and our bodies should not be a taboo subject. For many girls and women around the world it is a conversation which never occurs in their home or elsewhere.

Sixteen years later, starting my period at a friends sleepover and my mom announcing it to the world is a critical part of my “coming of age” story. At the time, I was mortified. However, I am grateful for friends and a mother who were willing to talk with me about my body and health. Bless my mom. I love her. The truth is ladies, our bodies and understanding them is nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of. We are created beautiful, unique and our bodies are important.

In my late teens and early twenties, friends began to talk about sex, fertility, birth control and other forms of contraceptives. This was a whole new conversation and a time when I began to understand my body more. As a young person, both then and now I choose abstinence not only as a form of birth control but as a personal choice for my overall health. In the United States, and throughout much of the Western world women’s health education is readily available. Unlike so many women and girls around the world, I do not have to worry about access to safe and clean water, sanitary products or where I can go to understand my body and health. If I have a question, I like so many women, can simply go to the doctor and ask.

In many parts of the world, women and girls do not have access to health education or sanitary products and not to mention no access to birth control or ways to understand their fertility. In fact, 225 million women and girls lack access to contraceptives and often do not have an adequate understanding about their bodies. In much of the Western world, we have the freedom to take birth control to avoid pregnancy, improve our skin and even deal with the insaneness of PMS and debilitating cramps. In fact, a company in Sweden called Natural Cycles even has an app for naturally tracking fertility and understanding your body. This month, their #LifeChangingOptions campaign promotes women’s health and is encouraging women around the world to know their bodies and be empowered to make informed decisions about their reproductive health.

This week, the Girls’ Globe team is in New York for the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. In honor of the #LifeChangingOptions campaign and World Contraception Day (September 26th) we took to the streets of New York and asked women to share their own health stories. We asked women, if any, what type of birth control they use and why? You can listen to their answers and I want to encourage you no matter how awkward it may be feel to talk about our bodies I hope we will continue to have real conversations about our health.

Kelly, New York

Caroline, New Jersey

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Category: Health    Menstruation    SRHR
Tagged with: #Lifechangingoptions    #YouthVoices    menstruation matters    Reproductive Health    sexual health

Diane Fender

Diane is a Global Traveler, Writer, Anthropologist and Vice President of Girls' Globe whose work has taken her throughout East Africa, Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal, and India. She is passionate about empowering indigenous women led movements to create change for communities around the world.

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  • Yes lots of women are very mortified and petrified to talk about their sexuality especially in Africa. until such feelings are confronted head on by continuous Advocacy the rights of women will remain a sham.

  • Diane Fender

    Thank you so much for your comment! I think it is definitely important that we talk about our bodies and our overall health as women. What are you doing in your country to do this?