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Men-Not-Sure-Nation. Arey, I Meant Menstruation!

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“Aa gaya naya whisper, ab nayi lock technology ke sath (Presenting the new Whisper, with an improved lock technology)”. Gee, does that line sounds familiar to you? Back in school, I didn’t know what the heck it meant. So, here we go, another article in the haystack of menstruation.

September 2012: I had just gotten into my first relationship and suddenly, I am the ‘cockiest’ guy on the planet. You know how we boys get when we fall in “love” for the first time, we think we are so cool. So what happens when you are young and fresh in love? You just don’t get enough of your counterpart, it’s like you don’t want them to leave like ever. We used to text almost whole night and sometimes she used to complain, “Nishat, it pains in my stomach”. Me being me, I used to think, “Did she eat too much or what?”

That is how foolish I was. But hey, you can’t blame me entirely, no one gave me a heads up – not my parents, not my friends, not even my textbooks.

Isn’t that the story of so many boys at that age? We just brush it aside by justifying, “Chodh na yaar, ladkiyo ki dikkat hai (Leave it bro, it’s a girl problem).” Is menstruation just a ‘female’ problem? Don’t we men come in the picture?

While I wrote the above lines, I just thought to myself – what if my mom or my sister had their period right now? Will I be able to know about it? What more can I do besides suggesting some painkillers?

I don’t want to make it too weird for you but here’s what I think – I would like to experience what it’s like to have a period. I think that would give us (males) a lot of perspective. It is an unknown territory, like North Korea, to experience your first period. You know the ‘fun’ part? Most girls are clueless about what is happening to them, it’s like a highway of ‘hormones’ flying over each other.

If you do a survey about the number of taboos associated with a certain social issue, I think menstruation tops the charts. While I was at it, I read some absolutely bizarre things, here are some of them:

1. Girls are generally considered ‘unholy’ or ‘impure’ when on their periods and they are not allowed to enter the kitchen because apparently, they will make the kitchen ‘unholy’ as well. If that is the case then I am ‘unholy’ almost the whole year because I masturbate every once in a while.

2. One thing that knocked me out of my senses was that in some parts of our country, women are afraid to step out of their homes during their periods because they feel that they will get attacked by some animal cause the animals can sense the blood. Has it sunk in yet?

So, what’s the solution? Communicate Ralph, communicate. Easiest thing ever to do. I repeat, it is not just a ‘girl problem’, we have our fair share of role to play.

Imagine you are in a time machine, let’s take it a few years back when you were about to hit puberty. You there yet? Now imagine you and your folks are watching TV together and suddenly a ‘lovemaking’ scene pops up. Now if you have been in that ruckus you would agree with me that it is one of the top five awkward scenarios of your life. Your folks get all panicky. I don’t blame them, they were brought up in a different time. That is my whole point exactly. I am putting this generation on a pedestal because we can do that, we are better at dealing with social norms than the previous generations.

I have a younger brother entering the whirling state of puberty and we watch a whole lotta TV together and sometimes it’s deja vu. Those lovemaking scenes pop up but I don’t get all panicky like my folks. This is where this generation can make a difference and it starts with you. I don’t flip the channels because he is going to learn about sex one way or the other. So it’s a lot better if I can make sure he learns it right.

So parents/elders, sit down your daughter and tell her, “It is perfectly fine what you are going through, you need to own it bacha, we here for you.”

Men, sit down with all the women in your life and tell that that you will help in any way possible. I can today say this with immense pride that I have no hesitation whatsoever in explaining to my younger brother about all the ‘Whispers’ and the ‘Stayfrees’ because I’m sure he is as clueless while watching these ads as I was.

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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

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

Bidisha was selected in’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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