In 2014, I set out on a journey travelling from village to village through rural India in a grassroots campaign to break menstruation myths and taboos, and empower young women with information about their bodies.
Called ‘Breaking The Silence’, the campaign aims to gather adolescent girls and women together in whatever space a community has available: a government school, broken down temple, old hospital, a spot near the well, under a tree, a rice paddy field, or even construction sites and openly discuss with them vital menstrual hygiene and health information.
The stigma around menstruation is such that it has led to severe public health consequences in the country. According to a study, of the 355 million menstruating women in India, only 12% use sanitary napkins. Poor menstrual health causes fungal infections, reproductive tract infections, and urinary tract infections, which can lead to cervical cancer. Women who practice unhygienic practices are also vulnerable to infertility. The Cervical Cancer-Free Coalition reported in 2013 that cervical cancer kills around 72,000 women in India every year, more than anywhere in the world, constituting 26% of the 275,000 deaths worldwide.
To end this stigma and the damage it has caused to women for centuries, I have been working on what I call the ‘Pad Campaign’. The entire purpose of this effort is to mobilise donations from citizens in the form of sanitary pad packets so that I can collect and distribute them among young girls and women from marginalised backgrounds. Targeted at women who cannot afford pads or have never used a pad before in their life, the idea is to introduce them to hygienic, sanitary materials.
In fact, in the year 2015-16, the campaign had been able to mobilise 10,000 sanitary pad packets from different parts of the world. They came as donations from across the world – the UK, USA, Nigeria, Pakistan, Japan – and of course from different parts of India.
Also something special this year is its theme – ‘Men Take a Lead’ – where all the focus will be given on building leadership among men to accept menstruation not just as a women’s issue but as a social issue and to encourage them to contribute their support and resources to make menstrual hygiene a reality.
And all it takes is a contribution of one sanitary pad packet or more on your part to help change the lives of these women. So if you want to donate a sanitary pad packet (or packets), all you need to do is to write to me at [email protected] or ping me on FB and I will give you my postal address so that you can courier it or register post it. On receiving your contribution, I will post your name and the description of your contribution on my social media campaign page on Facebook, Twitter and Blogspot.
I will also inform you when your contributed sanitary pads are distributed in training and I will send you pictures of the training so that you know where your pads have been utilised.
So just give me a pad, and make a change!
Chuppi todo! Mahavari ka khoon acha hai!