It was a usual, slightly chilly December morning. I was lazing around in bed, and surfing YouTube when I stumbled upon a TEDx talk by Aditi Gupta, founder of ‘Menstrupedia’. 11 minutes and 28 seconds later, I realised my life will never be the same again.
It was heartbreaking to realise that in a country of 355 million menstruating women, barely 12% use sanitary pads, and more than 10% believe that this beautiful natural phenomenon is a disease! We boast of rapid technological advancements and broadening mindsets, yet our people believe that women should not be allowed to enter temples and kitchen during periods because they are ‘impure.’ My upbringing had been such that I failed to realise what difficulties women of my own age, in my own country face due to lack of resources and awareness.
I was in a dilemma when I started to fathom how deeply rooted this problem is and for the first time in my life, I gained a sense of purpose. This small yet significant moment resulted in the birth of ‘Nazariya—Ek Soch’, an initiative which serves the purpose of not only spreading awareness about menstrual hygiene, but also eradicate all the myths and shatter all the taboos surrounding it!
When I pitched this idea to my friends and peers, I received a variety of responses ranging from “Are you completely mad?” “Focus on school kiddo, you are not even 16 yet!” to “Anvi, Going against our society’s mindset is like removing a bucket of water from the Ocean. It won’t change anything!” My parents were among the very few people who actually motivated me to do something about this.
After a lot of efforts and in-depth study of the existing issues, I conducted my first workshop at IB (L) Public School in Panipat for students between classes V and VIII, on April 19, 2017. Despite my initial nervousness I realised that the crowd was curious to learn more about this phenomenon. I continued my demonstration with conviction and received a really positive response. I usually talk about a wide range of topics during these workshops and cover everything from the biological aspects and facts to the taboos surrounding menstrual hygiene. I try to keep the language simple and the session as interactive and fun as possible.
At the end of this session, a cute girl with beautiful eyes and a ponytail came to me and said, “Didi mere ghar pe sab uss samay mere se dur rehte hai. Hamesha lagta tha unhe galti se chu bhi liya toh ye beemari unhe lag jayegi. Aaj aapne bataya toh samjhi ki main bilkul theek hu. Thank You Didi! (Everyone in my family stays away from me during my periods. I used to feel that even if I touch them, maybe they will get my disease as well. Today I finally understood how natural and normal this is and I have nothing to fear. Thank you!)”
Over the course of last the 11 months I have conducted insightful sessions at a number of schools in backward areas in Haryana as well as Delhi and every time I finish my session I get a sense of fulfillment which only drives me to work harder.
Two months later, we organised our first event called the “The Blood of Life” on June 24, 2017 at MYOLO Headquarters in Delhi. It was an attempt to start conversations regarding menstruation through slams poetry and story-telling. It also included a keynote from Priyanka Jain, founder of Hygiene and You and an eminent member of the Pan India Sustainable Menstruation campaign, “Green The Red“.
In February this year, I organised a tie-up with other NGOs in which nearly 400 primary school students were shown “Padman” for free at PVR Rivoli, Connaught Place. This was followed by a lengthy interactive session in which the students learnt the importance of addressing this issue and pledged to break the stereotypes and not fall prey to the myths and taboos.
Nazariya—Ek Soch frequently visit colleges in Delhi University to organise awareness drives and interact with the youth of our nation to ensure that their voices are heard and their innovative suggestions form the basis for a society which is free of patriarchal constraints. We are equally active on social media; writing blogs, creating digital campaigns, analysing political changes and their impact on our cause.
Dreams and dedication are a powerful combination. Despite being at a very nascent stage, we are now a team of 10 change-oriented youngsters, taking large steps towards ensuring that menstruation hygiene is given its due importance and a truckload of diseases and infections are avoided by Indian women. I have been privileged enough to reach more than 3,000 primary school students, and I plan to reach a lot more over the coming few years.
Perhaps all our country needs is the right “nazariya”, a change of mindset, to break free of its traditional toxic practices so that we can really prosper.