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My Periods Story: Society Vs My Uterus

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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.

We are living in a society where fighting and ‘creating a scene’ is acceptable in public, but kissing and hugging is not; where a year ago men pissing in the open were acceptable but talking about periods is still not.

But why there is so much taboo or restriction on periods? Why can’t we talk normally about periods like every other thing? Why do we have to change the channel of our television sets whenever an advertisement of Stayfree or Whisper comes on? Why do shopkeepers in our society wrap sanitary napkins with a newspaper, but products like alcohol and cigarettes are sold openly?

Well, the questions are many but the answer is one—MINDSET! We are taught, from the very beginning of our periods, that we are bound to live in a bubble while we are PMSing.

A Severe Lack Of Knowledge

My periods started a bit earlier than anyone in my group of friends. They came as the uninvited guests and gave me a shock which I still can’t forget even after all these years.

I remember the first day I got my periods, I locked myself in the washroom and cried for hours thinking I have got some deadly disease. After many attempts by my mother, I finally came out and revealed about my ‘disease’ to her. After knowing the disease I was talking about, my mother laughed and taught me that this is not a disease but a blessing.

However, it felt more like a curse than a blessing to me. The first few years were a bit difficult, they would start anytime and used to last for five to seven days, with my stomach aching as if someone has been continuously punching me for days. Honestly speaking, I used to hate periods, I used to curse myself for being born as a girl.

But as soon as I got to know more about periods, I stopped cursing myself and thanked God for making me a woman. For making me a powerful creature, that bears so much pain, that bleeds regularly, that gives birth to another human. But you know what that disgusts me? That we still have to face the tantrums of society, and we still get these taboos in return.

Oh, The Taboos…

There were no taboos in my house related to periods as my mother was way too cool for that. She would simply ask me to visit temple by saying “As if anyone knows that you are having periods or not.” But things were different in my relatives’ homes.

Source: The Meta Picture

“You can’t touch the pickle.”
“You can’t touch the clean drinking water.”
“Stay away from the kitchen area, and forget visiting the temples.”
“Don’t wash your hair with shampoo for the first two days.”
“Use separate bedsheets and wash them separately.”

…and so on.

My periods would finish faster than this list of taboos. Whenever I used to visit my relatives, it felt as if I was a prisoner, getting punished for committing a sinful crime. The level of taboos was so high that I remember a cousin of mine was not allowed to see the body of her own father for one last time when he passed away. However, things changed after that day, she took stand for herself and fought with all the taboos single-handedly.

You know what the problem is? We have been taught to accept things as the way they are, irrespective of how right or wrong they are. If they have been followed since forever, they must be right. Right? No, a big NO! The solution lies within ourselves; if we want to change something, we need to stop accepting such things society throws on our faces in the name of ‘Culture’.

When Period Shaming Happens

I remember it was after a year of my periods starting that my school organised a quick session to educate us girls about menstruation and about what all we should do and avoid. We were handed pads after the session. When we returned to our class, there was this buzz going around among the boys. We could sense what they were laughing and whispering about.

There was always this one stress, one fear at the back of our heads, which would limit us to do anything like ‘normal’—the fear of stains. This used to be the permanent duty of me and best friend to check each other for stains. I remember being laughed at when one day my friend forgot to check the blood stains on my white skirt. I remember the look in the eyes of my male classmates, who were holding back their laughter and giggles, and the look in the eyes of my girl classmates who were way too embarrassed that their cheeks turned red. And after that, I started skipping the classes for the first two days when the flow used to be high.

We Need Support

Things changed when I reached my college, my friends were way more understanding. From bringing me home-made food and chocolate,s to even handling the projects and assignments alone for a few days, my friends always understood the pain of being a girl.

a man and woman holding up a sanitary napkin with the message "#NoMoreLimits"
Source: Youth Ki Awaaz.

One day, I remember when a pack of Stayfree fell out of my bag in front of everyone, it was a few male friends of mine who helped me get out of that ‘awkward’ situation by saying, “Kya pehle nhi dekha kya kabhi?” to the people who were staring and laughing.

To the men reading this, support a girl who is on her periods. Understand her pain because some day a boy or a man might be period-shaming a woman in front of everyone and she will be facing the same humiliation most of us had to face. Speak up, because according to me, that’s being a real man!

And lastly, let’s remember that taboos around periods are nothing but bullshit. Menstruation must be celebrated not suppressed!

 

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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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