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Young Girls In Gujarat Are Learning About Periods Through Cool Science Experiments!

WASH logoEditor’s Note: This post is a part of #NoMoreLimits, a campaign by WASH United and Youth Ki Awaaz to break the silence on menstrual hygiene. If you'd like to become a menstrual hygiene champion, share your story on any one of these 5 themes here.

There is this girl I know who didn’t have her periods until she was 14. Her mother was talking to her friends about why she hadn’t started having them yet and whether a gynaecologist should be consulted. So the girl knew that she was to ‘get her period’ sometime soon, but she didn’t really know much more than that. She knew, however, that for some reason, she shouldn’t probe much into it and definitely should not talk about it in front of the male members of the family.

Sure enough, when she did get her periods, after a momentary panic attack, she instinctively connected the dots and realised that this was what getting periods meant. She went around looking for her mom (in her grandparent’s house, which they were visiting) who gave her a piece of cloth, without explaining how to really use it, or whether there were alternatives – assuming that she would figure it by herself, which she did.

While growing up, most girls find out what happens when they start getting periods in some way or the other. However, in most cases, this discussion is hushed, thereby keeping them from really understanding what it is, why it happens and how they should deal with it. This leads to girls being severely unequipped to understand and take ownership of their bodies.

Around the time of puberty, a lot of girls drop out of school, or are not allowed to attend school and are generally advised to be quiet and reserved. All of this hampers their growth and damages their self-image.

Additionally, since ignorance is the breeding ground for misconceptions, these poorly-informed girls and women end up believing, and in some cases, even propagating the myths attached with menstruation, leading to a vicious cycle. Having witnessed all this first-hand in Ahmedabad – and even more so, in my hometown, which is a small town in north Gujarat – I strongly feel the need to educate girls, women and even men about periods. I believe this to be the key in liberating women across the world.  

What is interesting is that periods are a taboo topic even in schools, which are supposed to be houses of knowledge. Our school textbooks do not explain the science behind the phenomenon, properly. Moreover, teachers feel shy talking about the subject to their students, which only adds to the cycle of myths, shame, and taboo.

We at Ahmedabad Global Shapers believe that we can end this taboo around periods if everyone is able to make the connection between science and this essential biological process that women go through every month. Making this happen is precisely the idea behind our project: The Science Period.

The idea germinated when two inspirational members of Ahmedabad Global Shapers, Monica and Aditi, collaborated to hold menstrual awareness workshops in schools. Aditi and Monica work in the field of breaking menstruation taboos and experiential science learning, respectively – and when they collaborated, a beautiful idea which proposed using science to address menstruation taboos took shape.

Soon after, I joined Ahmedabad Global Shapers and was instantly taken by the idea and impact of this project. We go to schools and conduct workshops with girls from classes 5 to 10, and talk to them about the science behind menstruation. We explain why it happens, how it happens and what they should do when it happens. We have found that explaining it scientifically not only equips them to deal with it but also allows them to see it just like any other bodily process, such as respiration or digestion. This helps in changing their perspectives towards it and lifts the shame associated with it.

We have noticed that when we enter the auditorium and start talking about menstruation to a hall full of girls, sometimes, there is pin-drop silence – since they don’t know how to talk about it and are sometimes uncomfortable with the topic being discussed in public.  However, we have designed the workshop to ensure that they engage with the content and don’t feel shy in participating.

More often than not, towards the end of the workshop, the girls ask us deeply thoughtful and important questions about menstruation, which only goes to indicate how they have been just brushing them under the carpet so far. Of course, that’s not healthy at all.

Not only have we seen these girls clear up their doubts about periods with us, they also actively and enthusiastically participate in a ‘design challenge’ that we run. In this challenge, we invite school girls to create a working model of the uterus which explains the full menstrual cycle. These working models are beautiful, in every sense of the word, because when they walk around with it in school, without being ashamed of it. It feels as though one is witnessing women empowerment live!

Once a teacher asked a girl to cover up her uterus-model. However, the same teacher expressed her gratitude, once she had attended one of our workshops. She even shared her ‘period story’ with the students, and thus, we saw some of the shame being lifted from the room.

Madhish Parikh, who is a science teacher at the Best High School in Ahmedabad and has helped organise the science period workshops, has had interesting experiences working on the project. Initially, even when other science teachers in his school skipped the chapter on the reproductive system, he covered the chapter in good detail – despite being the only male science teacher in the school.

Today, Madhish’s students have created the most beautiful and scientifically-accurate working models, and we couldn’t have been prouder of the students. Madhish’s work and these models have had a domino effect in the school. These days, almost all teachers are covering the chapter and explaining it in good detail, because they understand its importance. We met the principal of the school as well, who loved our work and has offered to host an exhibition of the working models that their students made for the rest of the school and the parent community.

The Science Periods Design Challenge for School

One of the team explaining their model. This is a working model that the team created to explain the process of menstruation.

Posted by Ahmedabad Global Shapers on Saturday, 11 March 2017

With this project, we have impacted the lives of 400 girls so far. But we have a bigger dream. We dream of a world where schools across the globe have working models and Do-It-Yourself (DIY) kits explaining menstruation. In order to achieve that, we have created an open-source kit, that anybody can easily learn to use and then be able to conduct these workshops in schools, by investing little time every month.

If this is something you feel strongly about, please get in touch and we will equip you to conduct these workshops easily and effectively in your schools and communities. We are also opening the design challenge for school girls across India to create their own DIY menstruation working models. The best entries will be awarded and their models will be distributed in schools across India and who knows, maybe even in other countries! Come, let’s create a world where there are no menstrual taboos and girls everywhere can be healthy and shame-free!

Let's ensure that no girl is limited by something as natural and normal as her period by making menstrual hygiene education compulsory in schools.

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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

  • Mobilising young people between the age of 18-35 to become ‘Eco-Period Champions’ by making the switch to a sustainable menstrual alternative and becoming advocates for the project
  • All existing and upcoming public institutions (pink toilets, washrooms, schools, colleges, government offices, government buildings) across East Delhi to have affordable provisions for sustainable menstrual product options

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, 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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