As part of Youth Ki Awaaz’s #NoMoreLimits campaign, it is worth sharing Pinaz Arora’s story who is helping break menstrual myths. An MBA and owner of a coaching center in Ludhiana, Arora has reached out to thousands of rural women and girls so far
In her conversations with women in a village near-by, she found out, to her disbelief, that women had been using grass and mud for absorbing blood during their menstrual cycle. It took several days for her to internalize this information and work towards changing this reality.
Today, though, Arora has reached out to over a thousands in a span of little over three months. She thinks this outreach is urgently needed because of the health risks posed by unhygienic practices among women during menstrual cycle.
The city girl that Arora is, she had lived a life cordoned off from realities of some of the Indian villages, and especially the realities of rural women. It began with a visit to a nearby village when a conversation about menstrual hygiene left her and her mother rattled. They were told, rather nonchalantly, about the dangerous methods of blood absorption.
In my conversation with Pinaz, she told me: “We thought we had to address the use of cloth but when we heard that women use grass and mud for blood absorption, we were in shock.” Her mother, who spent sleepless nights thinking about the trip, nudged Pinaz to do something about the situation. That was the start of the journey.
In February, Pinaz got together Art of Living volunteers to survey the rural areas and understand their concerns on priority. They realized that most women had no knowledge or resources to do anything about their menstrual hygiene. They were part of the 200 million women who lack awareness of menstrual hygiene and associated healthcare practices in India. The survey also brought to light health problems that these women were facing.
They began with organizing awareness sessions for women. “We just needed to assemble women and we would spread out daris (cotton mats) and interact with them for 45 minutes,” she said.
She ran into an Art of Living volunteer who deals with fast-moving consumer goods. He promised to get Arora a good discount on sanitary napkins for rural women. Pinaz Arora sprang into action and pooled in funds. They would give the pads away for ₹1 and pool in the rest of the money put together by the volunteers.
Pinaz Arora is supported by men too, in her effort to bring menstrual hygiene to women. “Twenty volunteers have come forward to work for this cause,” she said adding nonchalantly, “Both men and women.”
“I pursued MBA and decided to do something of my own,” shared Arora, “My working hours are from 4 pm to 9 pm and it was a perfect fit for my mornings were free to work with volunteers for this cause.”
The Art of Living’s Pavitra Project came as a blessing for Pinaz. The three-day program to bring awareness about menstrual hygiene amongst girls in rural areas gave her work a new dimension. “Through this project, I started working with the youth. I realized that if the new generation embraces and understands the process of menstruation, menstrual hygiene and self care; they will reach out to their families and bring about the required change,” she said enthusiastically. “I am working with the future of the nation. What can be more satisfying than that?” Arora shares her hopes.
Debunking myths around menstruation, she said, “I have told girls and women that this project is called Pavitra (pure). How can you be apavitra (impure) during periods?”
Menstruating women in India have been considered apavitra for decades. Pinaz added that she has clarified to the participants, “Most of the beliefs of not going into the kitchen, not working, among other beliefs, began because women need to be in rest mode. They need to make time to take care of themselves.”
The Pavitra Project is taking Pinaz to schools to take sessions with girls from Class V to X. As if speaking to herself, she continued in the flow, “The next step is to tie up with an NGO or find funding for the sanitary napkins. Awareness sessions and teaching asanas to women, another corner stone of Project Pavitra has received good interest from school managements. Principals are showing such interest that it seems like a cake walk.”