I am Sonali, an India Fellow, from the Social Leadership Program 2016. I had a busy one month just after getting placed by the India Fellow team in Child Survival India (CSI), a non-governmental organisation. After a month of me being placed, on August 20, 2016, I got an opportunity to be the part of Second Anemia and Menstrual Hygiene Health camp with my colleagues from CSI. It turned out to be a fun-filled and inspiring six hours in a higher secondary girls’ school in Badli, North Delhi.
Within minutes of us having entered, the vacant auditorium got filled with 120 adolescent girls. They began by playing a snakes-and-ladders game in which they conveyed the message that if you are going a level up in the game, it means you are having a healthy menstrual cycle.
Apart from our team, we had two counsellors, two doctors, two other staff at the registration and fruit distribution desk; and three at the nutrition workshop. Every corner of the school’s auditorium had different activities. At one end, girls had queued up to receive fruits, at another, they were getting their blood pressure, height and weight checked.
Haemoglobin tests took place after that. After all, the counsellors were comparing their first and second camps’ results and providing valuable advice in the simplest ways possible, for the girls to understand.
But before this, the CSI understood that there are numerous girls (even menstruating girls) who don’t have proper knowledge about it. So, in the first health camp, they tried to explain things through a presentation and took queries from the adolescent girls. That was not enough, so the CSI did the second health camp after three months and is looking forward to receiving funds to keep the work going in the right direction for many more health camps.
Meanwhile, I was trying to test the claim of my organisation, that they were doing a good job. I am joyous to share that I did not find a single girl having improper or inadequate information about menstrual hygiene. Even though, a few were shy while talking about it. The nutrition workshop was indeed a great experience for me, as well as the young girls. They were getting lessons on what to eat; nutritional food items like spinach, pulses, etc, and learning how to cook them. The girls shared that they will teach these recipes to their mothers as well. While imparting the nutritional knowledge, my colleagues had one thing very clear in their mind. That every girl may not be able to purchase expensive fruits and vegetables.
I was astonished to find the difference between the reports from both the camps. Most of the girls were so comfortable and confident irrespective of the menstrual taboos being prevalent in society. But there are still some loopholes left in the process, which I believe will be taken care of after a few more camps. The impact can be profound if it continues. Some of the quotes I heard from the adolescent girls shows that India is getting ready to break stereotypes around taboos of menstrual hygiene.
“Earlier it was told to us that we should not touch the pickles during the menstrual period but in this camp we came to know that it is just a myth and if we keep ourselves clean, then there will be no problem at all.” – A girl studying in class 9.
“When I heard about menstruation for the first time through my friends, I got scared and when it happened to me for the first time, I also felt awkward. However, now I am much more confident and comfortable.” – A girl studying in class 9.
The final takeaway from the day was that the girls understood that the right to bleed is the seed of human existence. It is a natural process just like breathing. There is nothing to hide about it.
Before talking about the facilities of sanitary napkins, menstrual cups, tampons etc., it’s more important to remove the taboos and make people start believing that better menstrual health is as important as the intake of food because if one is not confident and knowledgeable about it, he/she may not be convinced to spend a penny on it.