This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Srilekha Chakraborty. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The Ground Reality Of Advocating Menstrual Health In Jharkhand’s Tribal Areas

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.

It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was in the middle of a session on menstrual health when everyone burst out laughing. I was conducting a session with eight to ten adolescent Santali girls in the backyard of social worker’s house, in Deoghar, Jharkhand. I was trying to find narrations of first periods where Fulmoni, a 14-year-old girl declared that she thought ‘a leech had gone inside her vagina’. She narrated how she spent those five days of her life feeling scared and confused. While some in attendance laughed, and others teased her, the statement left me with a lot of anxiety.

I have been working with these young, tribal and Dalit girls on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights for the past five years and I am shocked at how little they know about menstrual hygiene, even now. What I realized while working with the Adivasi girls of the Santhal pargana in Jharkhand, was that Fulmoni was not alone. Several young girls in Jharkhand experience their first period with similar fear.

Jharkhand is one of India’s poorest states and is one of the most vulnerable, ranking 16 out of 17 in the Indian Hunger Index. 52% of girls get married before their 18th birthday in Jharkhand. Yet, it is surprising that there are blocks under Pakur, Sahibganj and Chaibasa (West Singhbhum) that have zero or very few programmes on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights for adolescents and youth, hosted by any non-governmental organizations. On the other hand, government programs are far from uniformly spreading the beneficiary schemes across the last corners of the village boundaries.

Lack of knowledge about menstrual hygiene leads to several myths and misconceptions about periods and severely affects these girls both emotionally and physically. I want these girls in Jharkhand to have access to knowledge and services on menstrual hygiene. Recently, I have started an online petition at, asking the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation of Jharkhand to ensure that young girls in remote communities of the state are provided with mandatory knowledge and services on menstrual hygiene in the Anganwadis. This may include brochures and posters with information on menstruation, availability of biodegradable pads and cloth pads, iron tablets and monthly checkups for anaemia.

The state already has a strong network of Anganwadi workers, who provide information on health and nutrition to women in villages. However, most of the Anganwadi workers are not trained to talk about menstruation and have no tangible material (like brochures, posters etc.) to pass accurate information to these girls. A report by UNICEF in 2015 claims that 67% of the state’s school teachers and 62% of frontline health workers are unaware about the cause of menstrual cycle and believe it is a mechanism to reduce body heat. The young girls that I have interacted with in Chaibasa and Pakur never had any discussions or sessions around menstruation in their community. The Anganwadi workers only distribute iron tablets to the girls on Village Health and Nutrition Days, and that too inconsistently.

The Central Government, under the flagship of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, promised to bring Comprehensive Sanitation and Hygiene amongst people in rural India since 2014. Given this initiative, the question is – what has been the training mechanism for Anganwadi Workers (AWWs) on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM)?

There is an immediate need to facilitate proper training of Anganwadi workers on knowledge and practice of Menstrual Hygiene Management and promote mandatory monthly sessions in the Anganwadi. This should be followed by a mechanism to monitor the impact of the adolescent program run by Anganwadis on menstrual hygiene in the communities.

Since 2016, Jharkhand has funded ₹25 crores to promote menstrual hygiene among school girls, by distributing free sanitary napkins. However, there is little importance towards the disposal mechanism of these pads. During focus group discussions, young girls shared that they threw the pads either in the village ponds when they go to wash themselves or they throw them in open spaces. If these girls are not told about menstruation, how to use a sanitary napkin and how often to change it, if they have no idea about how to keep themselves clean during their periods or on disposal mechanisms that keep their environment clean, then these free sanitary napkins will not serve their intended purpose.

It is also important to question what the State’s regular outreach mechanism to all schools across Jharkhand has been. There are several schools that have not received regular sanitary pads over time. Given that 52% of girls get married before their 18th birthday, how are school dropout rates monitored amongst girls, and what mechanisms are in place to ensure that knowledge and services on menstrual hygiene are provided before they leave school? Girls who drop out of school suffer the most as they have no agencies left to help them deal with their menstrual health. They not only miss out on the knowledge but also on services available in schools. Furthermore, my petition asks the Jharkhand Government to publish an audit report on the outcome and impact of Menstrual Hygiene Management by the Public Health Engineering Department in Jharkhand. Additionally, the petition requests for an Impact Report to be made available, to inform the public on the expenses and the outreach to rural schools with the 25 crores sanctioned under 2015-16 and 2016-17 fiscal plan.

Despite several policies and mechanisms in place, young girls at the grassroots level are still struggling for basic hygiene.

It’s time we know the right facts. It’s time we intervene responsibly. It’s time all girls in rural communities of Jharkhand get access to the right information on menstrual hygiene. If you resonate with this cause, do support my petition.

Featured image for representational purposes only. Credit: AFP PHOTO/Noah SEELAM

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.

Tweet To HRD Minister Sign the petition

You must be to comment.

More from Srilekha Chakraborty

Similar Posts

By Paribha Vashist

By Naureen Shafiq

By Nazariya LGBT

    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        Wondering what to write about?

        Here are some topics to get you started

        • “Every 15 Minutes, A Crime Is Committed Against A Dalit Person” Will We Find A ‘Cure’ For Caste-Based Violence? Start writing
        • The Darker Side Of The System: What Do You Think Of Police Brutality In India? Start writing
        • What Is One Movie Or Tv Show That You Can’t Stop Thinking About? Start writing
        • How Do We Begin Dismantling Locker Rooms That Carry On The Old Tradition Of Gendered Abuse? Start writing
        • What Lessons Have You Learnt During This Lockdown. Start writing

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        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.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        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.

        Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below