A Long Overdue Lesson In Menstrual Hygiene: A Visit To Tata Nagar Slum In Navi Mumbai

Posted by Becky Wilson
May 31, 2017

NOTE: This post has been self-published by the author. Anyone can write on Youth Ki Awaaz.

It is a little known fact that the 28th May is Menstrual Hygiene Day, but awareness of this date and this topic are increasing with the help of the non-profits like ‘Safe n’ Happy Periods’. Safe N’ Happy Periods was founded in January 2016 by Sarika Gupta, when she realized the effectiveness of doing yoga asanas with her sister to ease period pain. Why not spread these techniques to a wider audience, especially those without access to painkillers? Within a day, the initiative Safe N’ Happy, had become the seed of a great organisation. Since its foundation over 12,000 adolescent girls and 3,000 women have been reached, innumerable sanitary products distributed, and uncountable workshops given on safe menstrual health and hygiene practices. A study found that 71% of girls in India do not know what a period is before they have their first one. Along with this, 70% of women say they cannot afford sanitary products. This is a pressing but rarely discussed issue in India, silenced by stigma, lack of education and superstition.

This year, Sarika and a team of volunteers spent Menstrual Hygiene Day in Tata Nagar slum, CBD Belapur. The event was an incredible success, with hundreds of sanitary products distributed and a 45 minute workshop conducted. Topics included why menstruation occurs, how to deal it with safely and hygienically, menopause, and a demonstration of basic yoga postures that can alleviate menstrual cramps. Women and girls ranging in age from 13 to 55 attended, with many other members of the community watching nearby. It is nearly as important for men to learn about menstruation as it is for women, because many superstitions about menstruation are entrenched in the community as a whole. There are still many myths that need to be dispelled about a women’s impurity during menstruation, such as her inability to enter a kitchen or temple to avoid contamination, and a need for segregation from the house and family. The event was held under the shade of some trees, with a Safe N’ Happy banner looped through the branches, a full box of pads to distribute, and a host of eager volunteers from AIESEC Navi Mumbai. Safe N’ Happy collaborated with AIESEC for this event, which is the largest non-profit, youth run organisation in the world. On this day, the four participating volunteers were from Brazil, France, Germany and England.

Safe N’ Happy is an organisation with a bright future, mostly owing to the enthusiasm of its founder. Since its innovation, MBA graduate Sarika has travelled to different parts of India and also Ghana to learn about the problems menstruating girls face in different cultures. Many women and girls are frightened by their first period, and the culture of shame and shyness surrounding menstruation inhibits them from talking about it with their mothers or classmates. Safe N’ Happy is a humble step towards tackling this debilitating stigma and teaching girls techniques to prevent infection and deal with menstrual pain. Inadequate menstrual education can lead to UTIs, STDs and cervical cancer; not disposing properly of sanitary napkins can spread diseases, particularly for rag-pickers and other people exposed to waste in public. Sarika runs workshops in schools, colleges and slums across her home state, Rajasthan; Mumbai and Navi Mumbai; and Dharamshala. To continue providing pads, she relies heavily on donations and for people to keep up the conversation on menstruation.

You can donate through bank transfers or Paytm, which will help to provide sanitary pads for girls and women who cannot afford them. For more information, please visit our website www.safenhappyperiods.org or follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Safeandhappyperiods/

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