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My School Taught Me That Menstruation Was A ‘Girls-Only’ Secret

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That day, I cursed myself for being groomed in a co-ed school. “No one will understand,” I  murmured.

I was 11 at that time. It was our Hindi period and I sat with my head lowered. I was tensed and felt uneasy, as I was on my periods. I was nervous because I felt that my skirt had been stained. I couldn’t think of any way to stand and seek permission to go to the washroom. “Everyone will see and make fun of me” – this thought was running through my little and innocent brain.

I was young – and I don’t think a large number of my class’ girls understood anything about my period woes. I knew only one of my classmates, who also went through her periods. I was lucky that she was sitting in front of me during that Hindi class. “Stessy, Stessy, I need your help,” I whispered . “Ya, say?”– she asked . “I am bleeding. I need your help. As soon as the bell rings, I will run to the washroom. Please inform the teacher who comes next and come to the washroom to help me, will you ? Please?” – I said desperately. “Ok ok,” she replied.

The period ended and I rushed to the washroom. My luck didn’t play well, though. I waited for her, but she didn’t come. I took my skirt off – it was completely red at the back. “Damn. I passed so many classes – the boys will have seen me. Shit, now everyone will know.” – the immature side of me dominated with wet eyes. I panicked. I saw a girl in the washroom and requested her to call my sister. Thankfully, she called her. I unbolted the toilet, allowed her to get in, hugged her tight and started crying . She calmed me down – and finally, I was sent back home.

This incident made me feel ‘abnormal’. I took menstruation to be a sign of ‘old age’. I thought it would limit my freedom, comfort and childish nature. However, none of these ever happened – it was just a ‘baby thought’.

Another time, I was in the library when our class teacher told the girls to stay back. She counselled us about menstruation. All that she talked about was some general stuff. But, I remember what she said at last – “It’s a secret – a girl’s secret. Don’t you ever let any man know about it.” At that time, I was too young  to understand what a taboo was. Therefore, I agreed to this view, since I didn’t find anything wrong about it at that time.

Image source: Menstrupedia

When I was in class 9, an NGO came to counsel us on the same issue. Surprisingly, it was the first time I saw a man accompanying a woman to talk about an issue which was exclusively meant to be a ‘girls’ issue’. He asked us if we felt uncomfortable when he talked to us about ‘it’?  All the girls shouted with a resounding ‘yes’. He further inquired: “Why?” And it seemed none of us had any answer. He tried to talk about the ‘social taboo’, but also understood that our comfort and confidence had been terribly shaken. Hence, he dropped that discussion. I also clearly remember how this turned into a gossip among the girls. There’s no doubt the man was correct in his views – and we were simply too immature back then. His words were sane.

Now that I am mature enough what would have happened if talking about menstruation wasn’t considered to be a ‘social taboo’ back in school. What if the boys had also been a part of those counselling sessions our teachers gave us? What if it wasn’t considered a girls’ secret or thing? I think that if all of us were as broad-minded as that man from the NGO, I probably wouldn’t have distressed myself as much as i did when the ‘skirt-stain’ episode took place. I would have panicked less and understood more. That day would have been just another day, and not a depressing, self-harming one!

It’s also important for girls to take a stand and talk about menstruation freely.

Thanks to the social activists who have taken a steps to make people aware! Thanks to the movie-makers who have taken it upon themselves to portray a topic like menstruation!

“Menstrual hygiene should be part of educational system. There is never a thing on menstruation. Even if there is something on the subject, it is only for girls. That is the worst part. Even boys should be included in this conversation on menstruation.”Akshay Kumar

It’s high time we stand up for change!

It’s high time we stop treating periods as a taboo!

It’s high time we transform menstruation from ‘my issue’ to ‘our issue’!

It’s high time we act!

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Featured image source: Menstrupedia
You must be to comment.
  1. jenitta sabu

    Well it’s a high time to beat up this social taboo which is revolving around the mindset of the people. This is not a secret to be hidden one should understand that it is through mensuration through wich we can hope for next generation. Mensuration is not a girl’s weakness but her biggest strength . Especially boys and
    mens of our society are also entitled to know about the same as their lives don’t exist without women. Hence they these topics should be discussed and promoted as when boys and men of the society will learn about a pain that girls/ women go through it will only blossom into more respect, care and love.

  2. Sahil Azam

    Well this Taboo is still prevalent in our society and the mentality should be changed….
    Commendable..

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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