I Asked My Best Friend To Teach Me How To Wear A Pad

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 morning. My best friend from Kolkata had just shifted to a new city – Karnataka – and I was with her to help set up her new rented house. The room was piled up with luggage and scattered items. We both had no clue from where to start. However, I took the first step by asking her to sit in front of the almirah to set up the things while I will pass her the items from the bags.

I was opening the bags one by one and passing her things. It was a normal event – how it should be. With that, I ended up with a bag which had four green packets of pads. I passed those packets to her and she put it in the cupboard.

Now before proceeding, let me give you some background. I am a single child of my parent. I was also a late child. I studied in a boys’ school in Kolkata. Hence, when I was growing up, I was totally unaware of menstruation.

I was a biology student and heard about menstruation in the biology class. But I don’t remember ever seeing a packet of sanitary napkins at my place. However, I had seen the advertisements for sanitary napkins.

I grew up and joined St. Xavier’s’ College in Kolkata. That was the first time I started interacting with girls – before that, I hardly had female friends. With the course of time, I learned all about the “gossips”, “rumours”, “stigmas”, “taboos”, “girl talks”, “bleeding” – all this misinformation about menstruation.

Yes, I have studied in one of the most elite colleges of Kolkata but learned only misinformation. So, it should be clear people’s class background is not the only determining factor in making a taboo out of menstruation

Then time passed and I started to become conscious about the all the taboos regarding menstruation. I also started thinking that there is something wrong in our interpretations. I started discussing menstruation with some of my female friends directly and they were very open about the issue which helped me learn the facts.

Then I took the help of Google and learned about the facts against the taboos. However, I was not very sure about the practical execution of the methods. Nevertheless, I learned about the scientific and physical aspects of menstruation.

So, let me come back to the incident. After arranging her rooms and everything, I thought that I should clarify something for her. I asked my best friend to show me what a sanitary napkin looks. She was not surprised by my question but asked, “Haven’t you ever seen a pad?” I answered, “No.”

She brought out the big packet of sanitary napkins, took out one piece and gave it to me. It looked the same as what I had seen on TV but was wrapped in a paper. I looked at it and asked some questions. Then, I finally asked her how to use it. My best friend clarified the method in simple terms regarding the technique but I was not able to understand it at all. So, I asked her to show me the method.

She unwrapped a sanitary napkin and then placed it inside a pant and explained to me the full method. I learned it. It was an experience which helped me to grow up as a person and also helped me handle many situations later in my relationships.

I shared this story because I know that there are many guys like me who have no idea regarding menstruation. But today you should understand that it is not just a “girl’s thing” and that it is a bodily process.

I will also reach out to the women who are reading this story and will urge them to come forward and talk to their male friends openly about menstruation. To break a taboo, men and women alike should come forward.

Dear men, we will never understand the pain of cramps and the other related issues. But we can empathise with our partners and friends when they need us.

Why should men be aware of menstruation?

Firstly, when we are talking about breaking a taboo then it should be beyond gender. Secondly, the society consists of both men and women hence nothing can be one specific gender oriented.

The practical knowledge of menstruation is important for men because it will help them to understand and to empathise with the society.

“Mood swing”: Men should overcome this cliched idea

Among many other misconceptions of menstruation, one of the most perceived misconceptions is the mood swing. In the time of periods, mood swing happens but it is not the only thing happen during this time and also not every mood swing is related to the periods.

A period is not only a bloody affair

To most men, what I have learned that period is all about “bleeding”. We should understand that the bleeding is the outcome of many physical conditions which take place at that point in time. In this process, hormones play a large role.

Getting knowledge about “period sex”

Anything in our body is not simple. Men have a tendency to relate the menstruation to sex and perceive some wrong ideas. Period sex can happen and it is nothing sin but you should discuss with your partner about it because the problem is not the bleeding. When a girl menstruates the vaginal area become week and there can be some sensations in that part which might increase the action of sex. This can be painful too so the best way to find it out is by discussing with the partner.

Understanding cramps, pressure issues and how to handle them

Cramps and low pressure are two main issues come with as the effect of menstruation. It is important to know the types of cramps and the remedy. Here the remedy is not always medical but also by providing physical comforts. In terms of low-pressure men should know the medicines and also the emergency steps need to take.

Going through all these points we can see that it is not a “girl things”. Menstruation is a physical condition and empathising with this by men is important because that will strengthen our relationship with the friends, partners and even family members.

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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