It’s been a year since the Sustainable Menstruation Kerala Collective (SMKC) came together with various menstrual activists, educators, student volunteer networks (like the Red Cycle and Haiku) and alternative product groups, to lead up to a Women’s Day celebration of a different kind on March 8, 2016. In a first of its kind event, we took the conversations to the streets to help understand and explain that #MenstruationMatters.
The months after the event were inspiring and empowering for our informal collective. We reached out to individuals across the world and campaigners in India, through a simple Facebook group that now has 300+ members who share ideas and cross-cutting issues around menstruation rights. We have worked on GST campaigns with Video Volunteers which revolve around the taxing of menstrual hygiene products and supported the launch of the ‘Sustainable Menstruation Tamil Nadu Collective’ during this time.
Our work with the corporation of Thiruvananthapuram for ‘menstrual hygiene education’ and the Center for Development Studies to evolve a ‘zero-waste model for sanitary waste’ is currently in progress.
Now we come together to remind our youth and society to pursue sustainability as a need-of-the-hour to be a positive response to the climate and environment crisis that we face globally.
Kavya Menon is the leading spirit of this flagship 14-day menstrual marathon campaign (November 21, 2017, to December 8, 2017), in association with the collectives (SMKC, Red Cycle and Haiku) and local NGOs (WISH Foundation, Udma and Thanal).
She is also the lead facilitator for the session in all 14 districts, being a menstrual activist and researcher with MS in Engineering (Research) from the Department of Biotechnology at IIT Madras and founding campaigner of ‘Sustainable Menstruation Tamil Nadu’.
The event is designed to contain over 50 sessions, ranging from awareness talks, discussions, debates, quizzes, plays and exhibitions. Within each district, the event will be hosted by organisations such as the local self-government, NGOs, research institutions, college unions, hospitals, etc.
While the online space has been more open to conversations around the otherwise hush-hush period talks with campaigns like #PeriodofChange, #HappytoBleed, #IamNotDown, #ThePadEffect on popular e-media, we are yet to see action from policymakers and institutions to address the period poverty or culture of shame around menstruation.
The recent suicide of a school girl after being mocked by her teacher for staining the uniform was a call to our conscience and action to bridge the menstrual inequity that persists in India. The solution goes beyond just distributing free period pads or vending machines and asks for a system change where a purely bodily function is not viewed through disgust and ignorance of a typically patriarchal mindset.
While we celebrate the recent decision by Nepal to criminalize its traditional ritual of banishing menstruators (a term used to include gender-neutral/queer persons who menstruate and don’t identify as women) during their periods, we are yet to go a long way in achieving gender-sensitive policies around sanitation, market choices and more importantly our reproductive health and sexual rights.
Countries like the UK are actively campaigning for tax-free tampons, and women’s civil society groups in the US and South Korea have been petitioning for years without success to force governments to make sanitary product manufacturing corporations for disclosure and chemical safety compliance.
Campaigners at ‘Green the Red’ have recently filed a Right to Information seeking an answer from the Bureau of Indian Standards on the regulation of imported sanitary napkins. These long-drawn petitions and demands have not yet seen involvement from mainstream public and media. The 14-day marathon is one of our earnest efforts to carry these messages to the world beyond the internet and revive our human connection.
So come, be a part of the bloody change and help us make menstruation matter.
‘Aarthava Yaanam’ (which means menstruation journey in Malayalam) Campaign 2017, for raising awareness and dialogues around the need for sustainable alternatives in menstrual care starts tomorrow in Kasaragod. The inaugural function followed by the first session at Government College Kasaragod will be inaugurated by Mr N. A. Nellikkunnu MLA and will also see the launch of White Ribbon Campaign by Wish Foundation, Uduma who is the local host for the campaign launch. Event details can be found here.