My Story: Having to Make My Own Menstrual Hygiene Products in Prison

By Saniya Ghanoui —

KH explains what it’s like to be a woman in prison experiencing a shortage of menstrual hygiene products because of the stigmatization surrounding periods.


OBOS Today: Okay, and where people making these tampons—like were they using them to be able to visit with family? Like was this one of those things that they would attempt to do in order to have visits with their family? 

KH: Well, a little of both. I mean I’m not a pad person, I never have been. And so, tampons just were best for me and there are people that would do the same thing, but you know again because that’s what our preferred method of managing our menstrual hygiene needs work. But even if you have a tampon in when you go you still have to take it out, because there’s a string and so all of a sudden, they’re thinking you know this is going to be contraband or something like that so again, people would turn down the visit, so making their own was really just a this is how we have to survive. And then you know we would make it as a hustle like some of us were really good about making them, and so you know people would you know, it’s an industry it’s a side hustle while you’re inside making tampons for people, but then again, you’re making tampons for people. Okay, I was making tampons for people, as were so many others. 

But I’m not wearing gloves, and so you know at least I’m obsessive about washing my hands and all of that sort of stuff but that’s not true of everybody, plus there’s also no way to just store them in a safe and sanitary method. So, the, you’re playing Russian Roulette with your reproductive health, because if you get an infection, you get toxic shock, you have to have a hysterectomy, I mean you’re playing Russian roulette in, and you, that is not something that’s supposed to happen just because of your incarceration. 

And then, trying to, you know, we already have a period and I’m sure you’re talking about periods and everything else out here as well. And we have that stigma, we have that shame for something that is a natural normally occurring bodily function. But when you have to go to an officer and you have to say, can I have, I need and they look at you and they’ll say standby because they’re doing something else don’t get me wrong, I mean sometimes they just don’t give a shit— 

Oh sorry! 

OBOS Today: No, you’re really okay, you’re fine. 

KH: They don’t give a shit, or they may actually be legit busy, and they’ll say I will get to you, and then they get distracted because their job requires them to do something else. Or, then this, they will have to call over to supply, the supply officer doesn’t answer, in the meantime you’re standing there, potentially, you know, bleeding through your clothes and you can’t get what you need to manage your own bodily needs.