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After 708 Days Of Bleeding, What I Learnt From My Menstrual Journey

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This post is a part of Youth Ki Awaaz’s campaign #IAmNotDown to start a conversation on the stigma around menstrual hygiene women deal with. If you have an opinion on how we can improve access to menstrual hygiene products or a personal story of fighting menstrual taboos, write to us here.

As I cross my 26th year – and after roughly 708 days of bleeding – I look back on my journey as a menstruator through these stages:

Stage 1: Shock And Denial

Enter menarche. A perfectly happy birthday week ruined with the bleeding mess I had become. All reasonable functions, including interactions with humans and deities suddenly put on hold – territories drawn around the kitchen and the praying area, mattress denied.

The burden of now having to be careful with the opposite sex, not get pregnant, to not ‘stain’ and not be an ‘irregular’ menstruator. More importantly, not telling men about your periods. Instead, waiting coyly outside the temple since you’re not old enough to be left alone at home, and innocent enough to shrink at the jeering young boys passing by who know why you are not entering the shrine.

Stage 2: Pain And Guilt

Three or four years after the onset of monthly menses, my body became more conscious of the cramps that pierced my body. A stained bed-sheet meant more work for my mother, besides inviting disgust from my non-menstruating sister.

Sometimes the pain would only leave me dull. On those days, I couldn’t help but be envious of the girls who fainted to get much-needed care and attention – rest easy, you delicate young ‘feminine mystiques’!

Love is pain and so is menstruation. If there isn’t sufficient pain, one will be lead to believe that you are not frail or girly enough, because of a lack of suffering.

Stage 3: Anger And Bargaining

Plastic pads, which constitute most of the products available online, gave me itches, rashes and nightmarish odours. On the other hand, the prices for flowery-smelling ones gave my mother reasons for more disapproval.

Why couldn’t these companies look into these problems? Where were the information pamphlets which I could look up? Why does nobody want to talk of these issues?

Moreover, what about the monthly ordeal of having to burn your napkins with petrol or kerosene and the resulting headache?

Stage 4: Depression And Loneliness

This stage concerns pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). During this time, conversations in college that dared to step beyond discussing mere physical discomforts and bring in the ‘alchemy’ of female hormones were common. Fights and breakups, failed examinations and tortured parents were only ‘collateral damage’.

On the other hand, counter-arguments which dismissed PMS also prevailed. Some of us, ‘sisters of blood’, portrayed PMS as a thing to stay away from – calling it ‘negative energy’ or ‘destructive vibes’ (or even ‘plain unpleasantness of a cranky soul’).

There was also existential angst over unexplained feelings and actions (especially after bleeding) – experiences which, in retrospect, seemed to belong to another mind and body.

‘How do I deal with all this pain?’

Stage 5: The Upward Turn

I am now a woman of the world. I have traveled to places and met people and stayed away from my hometown long enough to see the other side of parented perspectives.

Oh wait, what about #periodofchange? While wondering what needed to be changed regarding the issue of periods (barring the possibility of natural elimination or mutation) I faced the very questions that had haunted me previously.

The ‘bubble-bursting’ began, thenceforth: Sanitary napkins are not made of cotton! Dioxin exposure! Corporate monopoly over women’s bodies and toxins being shoved down our vaginas! Reusable menstrual hygiene products! Human rights and environment violation in the name of sanitary napkin revolution! The list of realisations goes on.

Ultimately, my switch to menstrual cups was instrumental in bringing me closer to the womanhood I had failed to connect to, despite being biologically connected to it.

Stage 6: Reconstruction And Working Through

A full-time ecologist and sustainability researcher, who came to my hometown after learning of the crusaders of sustainable menstruation, sowed and spread the seeds of co-creating a collective.

This person was aware of the unacknowledged oppression in our system which failed to provide us a choice to menstruate responsibly. This also fostered the culture of shame and silence (about menstruation) that has seeped into science, society and markets across generations.

We now work with the Sustainable Menstruation Kerala collective, which is a group of educators, activists, writers, film makers, experts, politicians and alternative product groups who share a love for the environment and commitment to ensuring justice.

What makes it even more beautiful is the fact that men who have joined us in our cause are not dismissed just because we deal with what is often termed as ‘just a woman’s issue’.

Stage 7: Acceptance And Hope

If this journey has taught me something, it is that we cannot work by using the ‘us and them’ approach any more. For instance, I cannot hail ‘my’ reusable menstrual cup as the ‘only’ acceptable solution to ‘your’ disposable sanitary napkin.

However, I can stay with you, in your journey, to understand your confusion and counter the claims that may be detrimental to our health and the world. The problems that plague us everyday are often the result of systemic failures like capitalism, patriarchy and fundamentalism – the perils of which have been the only thing that has ‘trickled down’ to us so far.

So, while we participate in campaigns like #HappytoBleed, #GreentheRed and even #ReadytoWait, we must realise that as long as we are in it together and back ourselves with evidence-based action and innovation – we have sufficient reason to change!


Image used for representative purposes only.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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

Bidisha was selected in’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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