How The ‘Shh Factor’ Makes It Harder To Access Menstrual Hygiene

Posted by Sonali
April 30, 2017

Self-Published

This story is a part of Youth Ki Awaaz’s campaign #IAmNotDown to spread awareness on menstrual hygiene and start a conversation on how sanitary pads can be made more affordable. If you have an opinion on how we can improve access to menstrual hygiene products, write to us here.

I want to cry and shout due to these frequent cramps. I am feeling so uneasy and people keep on asking why are you sounding so irritated. I am spending the half day in the washroom. It’s making me sick. The family and friends are nagging like the pain in my neck. Didn’t they study anything about ‘PERIODS’ in school? Shhhh….I mean, girl’s problem. Why are we facing additional periods problems like unhygienic lifestyle and several practices such as ‘don’t touch the pickle’, ‘don’t worship (that I anyway, don’t do)’? Is it our destiny until our menopause? I hope we know about menopause…do we? I doubt.

Do we know around 50% of Indian population lacks the access of menstrual hygiene products and awareness? Out of the 355 million menstruating Indian women, the access to sanitary napkins is only to 12% of them. Yes, the lack of awareness about menstrual hygiene and the related taboos have made us more vulnerable. When I had my first periods I knew nothing about it and informed my mother to take me to the doctor as I felt I was suffering from an unknown disease.

I was never given any information about it. It was not completely my family’s fault. I belong to a very small town of Bihar, world-famous for its paintings, Madhubani but the society did not prefer to talk about it, a few years back. There was always a shhhh factor surrounded with the whole idea of menstruation. My mother learned that culture from her mother and used it on me as well because there was no one around her to tell her that as you know it’s a natural process, so, it should not be forbidden in our conversation.

After my first periods, my family waited for my elder sister to come back from her hostel for vacations to explain it to me. I felt very awkward. A few years later, I started having the conversation with my mother about it because I feel no one can better understand me than my mother so, I don’t need to depend on others for that and that practice has helped my mother to be comfortable about it too.

Now, how many of us know about ‘HEAT CYCLE’? Don’t relate it with Delhi’s scorching summer. Yes, my friend, Khushi’s Pugu even doesn’t need to feel down just like I don’t feel down at all. Pugu is her toy breed female pug. One day, she started having cramps and was not eating anything. It went for a whole day. Khushi decided to take her to the doctor then she came to know that Pugu started menstruating at 6 months only which should ideally happen after she turned one. It was scary for her but later, doctor explained that this is becoming common among dogs. After her first Heat Cycle, she again had it back within 3 months which was not a good sign because their cycle comes once or twice a year. They don’t bleed for 4 to 7 days like us. They normally bleed for almost 18 days which is variable according to their breed. They face stomach cramps and mood swings and prefer to be in their comfort zone and don’t feel like playing.

Pugu posing for Shutterbug

Our Pugu also uses the sanitary napkin as it’s good to practice a hygienic lifestyle to keep her away from the uneasy life and diseases. I often think about those who are not aware of the Heat Cycle and have an animal and more than them, I think about the stray animals who gets none of these facilities- No sanitary napkins, no doctor’s assistance, and no pain killers.

But for them even, the voice should be #IAmNotDown just like it is for you and me- #IAmNotDown. I don’t have time to think about how societal discourses has made periods or stains, for the matter of fact, humiliating because I and Pugu feel the pain, discomfort, irritation and mood swing but not down.

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