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My Dad Taught Me How To Use A Pad

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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.

By: Arpit Chhikara

Sanvi*, a teenager from Kasauli, felt very distraught when her friend *Tanya had to rush home, middle of a school day after she stained her skirt with a red spot. Next day Tanya said this was ‘ladkiyo wali baat’ and only moms could talk about it. Sanvi, who grew up in an all-boys household, tells Love Matters who finally did the ‘ladkiyon wali baat’ with her.

Sanvi, 19, is a college student in Chandigarh

My dad, my mom

*Rohan bhaiya and I were raised by our father –  he was our friend, philosopher and guide. I remember him dressing me for school – doing the neatest plaits anyone ever had, packed the most yum tiffin and single-handedly holding the fort at all PTA meetings.

As I moved on from primary school, I grew a bit shy changing in front of him or my brother. When my dad sensed this discomfort, he told me I was my own person and I should do whatever I felt comfortable with. And so from age seven, I bathed on my own, got dressed on my own and took care of myself.

Girl talk

When I was about ten or so, one day, I saw Rohan bhaiya quickly change the channel when a sanitary napkin ad appeared on TV. I felt curious and confused but wasn’t sure if I should ask bhaiya. He clearly looked a bit flustered.

And then one day at school, my friend Tanya broke into tears and then ran to the washroom, clutching her skirt. I saw there were some red spots on it. Our teacher later asked her to go to the medical room and then her mom came to pick her up. Everyone in the class was curious about Tanya. Was she sick? Why was she crying?

I asked Tanya the next day and she said it was ‘girl talk’ and that I should ask my mother more about this. I came home and since Dad was not around I asked bhaiya. He seemed embarrassed by my question. ‘Yeh sab bado ki batein hain, tu abhi choti hai,’ was all he could say.

Dad to the rescue

Bhaiya’s comment made me really confused. How could a bado ki baat be happening to Tanya! Dad was travelling for work and so I had to wait for him to return. Bhaiya and Tanya’s responses had made me a bit hesitant too. Should I be asking my father about this? But I was really close to was my dad, and he was the only parent I had.

And so when he returned from his work trip, I caught him on the doorstep. I told him about what had happened to Tanya and if something like that would happen to me as well!. I could sense whatever had happened to Tanya was linked to that advertisement on TV but I was not sure how.

I still remember the look on his face. Unlike bhaiya, my dad was very calm and composed. He did not make me feel embarrassed. He held my hand and walked with me to his study, asking Rohan bhaiya to join us.

Being a biology professor, he had a number of diagrams in his drawers and took out one. My brother now realised where the conversation was headed and could not hide his embarrassment when dad showed us a diagram of the naked human body. My dad sensed his awkwardness and told us both that our body was nothing to be ashamed of.

He told us that we were both growing up and it was important for us to know what was happening to our bodies. He then explained how my brother and I had different organs and that was because my body was designed to carry a baby but his was not.

Addressing my body

He then told us about menstruation, explaining that during a menstrual cycle, a woman’s body prepares for birth. And when the body does not conceive, the body lets out the blood and that this happened every month! And if a person is not prepared for their period, this blood can stain their clothes and that it was perfectly normal.

He told me that I too would experience this soon and it was nothing to be scared or embarrassed about. I asked if it happened to all the girls. He said yes. Tanya’s mystery was solved!

After that night’s conversation, I went to sleep with a clear head but still some fear in my heart that all this would happen to me soon.

The next day, after dinner, dad said he wanted to prepare me for my first period – so that I am not caught unawares and know what exactly to do when it comes calling. He asked my brother to join us saying it was important for all the boys to also know about menstruation. He took out a sanitary pad – similar to the one shown on television. He then taught me how to use it. He asked me to go to the bathroom and try it. I felt hesitant at first but then played along.

I stuck the pad on my underwear as instructed on the back of the packet. It wasn’t hard at all and I suddenly felt confident and less intimidated by this upcoming change. I started with my periods soon after and when I did not freak out like Tanya did.

The article was first published here on Love Matters India.

*To protect the identity, names have been changed and the person/s in the picture is/are models.

Love Matters and Miss Menses wish all women a happy and safe period on the #NoMoreLimits World Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28).

Read more here on Menstrual Hygiene: Top Facts 

Read more on Menstrual Products Hygiene: Top Facts

What was your first period experience like? Share with Love Matters (LM) on our Facebook page. If you have a specific question, please ask LM experts on our discussion forum.

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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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.

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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.

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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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