Menstrual Hygiene – An Urban Indian Woman’s Problems

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While there have been many articles written about the fact that women in rural areas still don’t have access to basic products such as Sanitary Napkins or tampons (i am sure they would have never even heard about these products). It is not completely true that women working or living in the urban areas are much better off. There are a few problems that we ourselves face such as;

  1. Lack of Washroom – While Mumbai is the city of dreams, one thing that it certainly lacks is Clean Washroom. During your period days, the washroom becomes one place where you wish to stay longer. It is also important to change your Sanitary Napkins once in every 4 to 6 hours and one would look out for a clean washroom. There are still some buildings in the city, wherein the washrooms are either not built or were never maintained. Unless a woman has purchased an office in a building, it is difficult to have a personal ladies washroom. Neither do public places such as Bus Depots or Railway Platforms have good washrooms, wherein a woman can go and change.
  2. Expensive Sanitary Pads – Sanitary Napkins are still an expensive product for many in the city. Even though companies have started making Sanitary Napkins which are available for around 25 Rs. for a packet of 10, it is still very expensive for some women and they refuse to use such products.
  3. Accessing the limited washroom – While Metropolitan Cities are still more modern and not that reserved compared to the rural area but there are some difficulties that women here still face. In cities it is common for men and women to sit together and have a coffee or work till late night together but sometimes it gets really akward while going to the washroom with your handbag (yes, we have ultra thin napkins now). While some male collegues may understand and give you your space, some just interrogate you on why one needs to carry a hand bag to the washroom 4 times a day.
  4. Long working hours / Travel Time – A city youngster irrespective of the gender works for an average of 6 to 8 hours and travels for a minimum of 2 hours. Considering, the heat, pollution, traffic and unavailability of clean washrooms even in decent hotels only adds up to the misery of women. Not every hotel or every mall has a clean washroom, where a woman can visit.
  5. Lifestyle diseases – Due to the hectic and fast lifestyle, many women in Urban India face issues like PCOD and PCOS at an early age but still are not aware about the same. While in school, sex education covers only the basics of reproductive systems and how a child is conceived, it skips important topics such as PCOD and PCOS. Many a times girls as young as 18 suffer from PCOD and PCOS due to life stylein the urban city, but due to lack of knowledge about these diseases, they ignore this fact and which in future leads to difficulty in conceiving.
  6. Early puberty and Menopause – Again due to the hectic and demanding lifestyle in the city, Children as early as 7 and 8 are getting their periods and  women are also getting their menopause by the age of 30.
  7. Unhealthy Lifestyle – Junk Food and the hectic lifestyle leads to obesity, which also plays a major role in the menstrual cycle of a woman’s body. Many a times. women  in order to attend a pooja at home take medicines to either pre -pone or post pone their periods. While taking these tablets the women may not realise that they are interrupting the natural cycle, which has been set by the body. Excessive intake of these pills lead to obseity, mood swings and other hormonal imbalances, which are ignored in the earlier stages. While, a doctor may prescribe such medicines in case of emergency but some girls and women take it on regular basis  just to attend functions. God does not mind a woman in her periods coming to his temple but he is surely upset  to see that his most beautiful child is harming herself to please him.
  8. Peer Pressure – Earlier women were not allowed in the kitchen during the first 5 days of periods because the kitchen work during those days was very strenuous for the women. Women were not permitted to go to temples because a lot of temples would be far away from the house and women those days would fast and do pooja for atleast a couple of hours, for a woman who is on her period sometimes may find it difficult to sit for even more than 15 minutes. Though today the women may not have that streneous work compared to the olden days in the kitchen but the work at the office is equally hectic. Sometimes, even when the body demands to rest, women ignore it due to peer pressure to survive. A lot women post marriage are not able to conceive due to nothing but stress. Peer pressure to succeed causes also leads to infertility. If our ancestors had made some rules they were because there were some scientific reasons for it, it is just that in the transition everyone forgot to tell us the importance behind the rules.

Your menstrual cycle is not something you need to be ashamed of, it is a sign of happy woman hood.

Your menstrual cycle indicates that We women have the capability to give birth to another human being.

I still remember the quote, which my biology professor had quoted during the lecture on reproduction.

“A uterus cries blood because it could not produce a baby.” This is how some literary person defined periods.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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