Book Club

Karo Omu's Children's Book “THE LITTLE RED SPOT” is a Wholesome Contribution To Having Shame-free Discussions About First-time Periods With Little Girls

By Sera | May 22, 2023

Menstruation is usually the first of many rituals that ushers young girls into “womanhood” yet in many communities, the menstrual experience of many women and young girls is bridled by cultural stricture, discriminatory and exclusionary societal norms, lack of menstrual information and period poverty. These often result in unhygienic and unhealthy menstrual practices, menstrual misconceptions, and negative attitudes which motivate shaming, bullying, and even gender-based violence. 

The World Bank, on menstrual health and hygiene, reports that:

  • A meta-analysis on the status of menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls in India found that a quarter of the girls did not attend school during menstruation because of the lack of adequate toilets (Van Eijk et al. 2016).
  • In South Sudan, 57 per cent of surveyed adolescent girls reported staying home during menstruation because of the lack of private changing rooms in school (Tamiru et al. 2015).
  • A study in Kenya found that 95 per cent of menstruating girls missed one to three school days, 70 per cent reported a negative impact on their grades, and more than 50 per cent started falling behind in school because of menstruation (Mucherah and Thomas 2017).
  • A survey in Bangladesh found that only 6 per cent of schools provide education on health and hygiene, and only 36 per cent of girls had prior knowledge about menstruation before their first period (World Bank 2017c).
  • A sanitary pad intervention in Ghana found that after six months of free sanitary pad provision and puberty education programming, girls missed significantly less school (Montgomery et al. 2012). 

Qualitative research also shows that lots of women associate shame and embarrassment with their menarche. If you start a discussion about first period experiences on social media, the stories that pour in will go from unintentionally funny to devastating.

Personally, as someone who had their menarche before I was taught about it in secondary school, my mother had to assure a tearful, devastated me, that I was okay and that what was happening was completely normal, I had never heard of it before that day. 

Fast forward to secondary school, having to change in between classes was a tedious ritual, finding creative ways to transport the pads from our bags to the waistline of our skirts because carrying a bag to the loo was too suspecting, waiting for the class to empty before getting up at the end of a school day to avoid the embarrassment and awkwardness of being stained were ways in which this shame manifested. 

Evidently, the first and most crucial step towards creating a world with better menstrual experiences for the younger generation of girls is eradicating the shame that society has tied to it by making conversation around the subject matter as early in their lives as possible, it is an inevitable change that must occur, so why keep it a secret?

This is where Karo Omu’s new book “The Little Red Spot” comes in.

Karo Omu, the founder of Sanitary Aid Nigeria, a sanitary aid initiative providing period products and menstrual hygiene education for women and girls of low economic backgrounds, has released her debut Children's book on May 21, titled The Little Red Spot. 

Concerning her work at Sanitary Aid and the writing of her book, she explains,

“Working in period poverty and being exposed to all the different ways menstruation affects our experiences as women, I have largely followed where the work takes me. We are committed to educating women and girls about menstrual hygiene practices so this book is one medium through which I am contributing to the larger work that the Sanitary Aid Initiative does.” 

The Little Red Spot is a children’s book that follows Ivy, a ten-year-old girl who gets her first period. The author highlights Ivy’s fears and surprises as a teachable moment to communicate necessary and important information on periods to potential tender readers. It is a wholesome contribution to initiating shame-free discussions about first-time periods with little girls, equipping them early on with the knowledge and self-awareness that leaves no room for harmful menstrual misconceptions to thrive and provides them with the support they need navigating such a defining moment of their lives. 

Document Women had a little chat with the author before the release of her book.


Tell us about your book and what inspired it. 

My book is called “The Little Red Spot”. It was largely inspired by responses from a research I did last year where 1 in 3 girls said they became aware of periods when they got theirs, not before. A few months ago, my daughter came into the bathroom and saw my pad and panicked. She thought I was hurt. It sort of pushed me to then go ahead and write an age-appropriate story for her and children around that age to understand what periods are about. 


What’s a major thing that you’d love the book to be or do for its potential readers once it’s out there? 

I would love it to bring knowledge and ease to children about this part of puberty. So that they embrace whether it is happening to them or someone around them. 


In your opinion, what’s the most important thing about this book?

For me, it would be how periods are introduced to children without shame, fear and with lots of support from those who have had that experience before them. 


As a mother to a girl child and as an Aunt have you had any experiences with your daughter or any little girl in your life that has shaped the language that you have used in the book?

Children are way smarter than we give them credit for. I tried to use really simple language in telling Ivy’s story but I also used words that might be new to them to give their adults the opportunity to expand the conversation. It’s the same way I speak with my daughter, nieces and nephews, I try to see what they know and then offer additional insight, they get it most of the time even in seemingly complex conversations.


Sometimes in trying to explain “adult” things, experiences or behaviours to children, a lot can be “lost in translation” while trying to make them understand.

Do you think watering down the language took away anything from the information you were trying to pass across in the book? 

I didn't have to water down the language, truly. When I read it to my almost 6-year-old, she asked “is that going to happen to me?”, her friend’s response was, “oh that’s why mummies wear diapers”. I believe the information was passed appropriately without losing much, as they get older, they would be able to grasp the more complex aspects of puberty and the changes they are experiencing. 


To what extent did you go in terms of the kind of information surrounding periods you wrote about?

The story is about Ivy’s first period, so what the book does is share her surprise and fears and then give her the necessary information about periods. 


What is the distribution channel like for the book? Would you get copies sold in Nigeria as well any time soon?

We are distributing worldwide and I will definitely have some in Nigeria by June. For now, it can be pre-ordered on Amazon and should be available to order from the 20th of May. 


How was the writing and publishing process for you, especially as a first-time author?

It was interesting, I leaned heavily on friends and others who had written before. I was fortunate to be put in contact with my publishers and it’s been only up from there. I would say, I am excited about my next book now. 

The existence of this book is very important, it is a must-read for all little girls and boys coming of age. It launched on May 21 and is available for purchase on Amazon.


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