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I Celebrate My Periods Along With The 4 Seasons – Spring, Summer, Fall & Winter

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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.

I got my periods today morning. After suffering bouts of PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) blues for one full week, this gush of blood between my thighs was certainly a relief. To my agony, I had only a pack of seven sanitary napkins of Whisper with me. And I knew this was not going to suffice as I bleed heavy. In the evening, I went to buy napkins at a local medical store.  The conversation went like this:

Me: “Can I have a packet of XL Whisper or Stay Free sanitary napkin?”

Shopkeeper (in a hushed tone): “Seven or Fifteen pack madam?”

Me: “Fifteen.”

The shopkeeper took the packet and was wrapping the same in a newspaper when I said, “I don’t need a cover, give the packet as it is.”

The shopkeeper replied, “It is for your good I am wrapping. People will watch.”

“Fuck them, give the packet as it is,” I said before leaving the shop with the packet.

So I guess the mindset is still similar. This incident did not take place in any rural area. This happened in an urban city – Mumbai.

Menstruation should be celebrated and not suppressed. Basically, menstruation is vaginal bleeding a woman has to put up with every month. The normal age for a female to get her first period varies between 11-14 years, the cycle gap being 28 to 35 days.

As the girl hits puberty, the body prepares her for pregnancy and egg fertilization in the ovary each month. The ovulation starts and generally one egg dominates. Meanwhile, the lining of the uterus is developed to hold the fetus once that egg is fertilised. The egg, when released from the ovary, travels down the fallopian tube and is fertilised by a male sperm. The hormones reach a high and a woman gets her PMS blues. In case of no sperm impregnation and no fertilisation of the egg, the egg dies within two days and the rage of hormone tones down. The net result – the lining of the uterus is broken and ultimately menstruation starts, that is crying of the uterus. The egg and other fibres along with blood are shed through the vagina.

So actually women are gifted with the power of reproduction. Had menstruation been absent in females, the male sperm would be of no use. It is ultimately the egg which matters and also a woman’s uterus which is prepared to hold the baby for nine months in case of pregnancy.

In an interesting take on menstruation and spirituality, Teal Swan says that some of us may have heard of the four cycles of a woman’s life – maiden, mother, maga and crone.  Interestingly enough, each of these cycles of a woman’s life correlates directly to the cycles of the seasons on earth. Spring, summer, fall and winter. One can feel the energy of these seasons. The menstrual cycle is also divided into four phases. These four phases correspond to the earth’s seasons. So, a woman’s monthly cycle is a smaller cycle within a larger cycle. If a woman was in tune with her natural innate energy, she would be compelled during each phase of her cycle (each phase lasts about a week) to behave differently just like the seasons.

Even as women argue on which phase of menstrual cycle synchronises with the season, the author says that she feels like spring when the bleeding stops. The time around ovulation feels is like summer and the time between ovulation and menstruation feels like fall and winter begins a few days before she bleeds, when she starts to feel the symptoms of decreasing hormones in her body.

Marsha O’Mahony says in her article  that she made it a mandate to celebrate her daughter’s first period. She had already briefed her daughter on this aspect and the day when her daughter declared that she had hit her menses, she surfed the net and discovered a whole netherworld of the “menarche”, a ritual that celebrates a girl’s journey into womanhood. Rachael Hertogs runs Menarche workshops from her west Wales’ home. “It’s an opportunity for mums and daughters (aged eight to 13) to spend some special time together as they experience this rite of passage together,” she says. At one of Rachael’s menarche parties, girls are encouraged to embrace their monthlies or, as Rachael calls them, “moon time”, to share stories, play, create and celebrate together.

It had also been my mother’s perception that period needs to be celebrated and there is no need to hush up the same. My daughter who is now a little girl of ten and who I know will get her periods within a year or so came to me a day before her summer vacations and said that the school doctor had briefed the entire class on periods. Of course, the boys weren’t included in the discussion, but seeing as how it was part of the school syllabus, boys would get acquainted with it eventually.

I was brought up in a very open environment and I always purchased the napkins and tampons myself. On one instance, I remember we – a group of four cousins – with our aunt as a guardian were on our way to watch a movie. I got my periods midway. My cousins suggested letting my aunt buy the napkin but I said I would do it myself. They appreciated my gesture and said that I was a very bold woman and I reciprocated, saying that they all should be like me.

Being a single woman, I couldn’t care less of what society thinks of me. The shopkeeper was flabbergasted, so were my cousins. But I am sure that my daughter will not feel the same as both her and I school had explained to her the nitty gritty on menstruation. Though we think we have succeeded in our mission – that menstruation is no longer a taboo with Bollywood making movies like “Padman” – we still have a long journey ahead.

Coming back to menstruation and spirituality, Teal Swan highlights that we should have only one word when it comes to the monthly cycle and that is magic.  Periods are highly esoteric. In fact, before we fell out of touch with the cycles of nature, by creating a life that did not revolve around them, women’s cycles were in sync with the cycle of the moon.  Women, who were healthy, ovulated when the moon was full and bled on the new moon. Women were also synchronised with one another. They would bleed at the same time.

In ancient cultures, this time was sacred and women would retreat to be together and to nourish themselves and each other as well as to respect the process of menstruation. On an energetic level and even a physical level, period blood is designed to nourish and give life itself. It is not only sacred and therefore powerful when used in ceremonies; it is so vital that it has the capacity to heal. Ancient cultures that understood this were known to use menstrual blood as a drink for people who were ill and as a salve and as a way to revive people, animals and plants that were in a state of decline. The womb renews itself every month. The energetic properties of this blood are also that of renewal and rebirth and creation and life.  In the future, science will prove that material such as stem cells contained in menstrual blood has these properties and those materials will be used in standard medical treatment.

So there are certainly no more limits when we talk of menstruation. As I say it loud and clear that I bleed each month, I also say I enjoy the four seasons – spring, summer, fall and winter in me during my menses as a woman.

I type out this essay as I bleed and it is my honest opinion that we should all be open about this. There is iron in our body. We smell like a gun. We bleed as we are spiritual souls whose blood means a lot – we receptors of sperm are capable of bearing a body in us for nine months and that is only possible as the Almighty had provided us with the capacity to have our periods each month. Celebrate your period as a woman. Don’t hush it up but like me, say it loud and clear that you bleed each month. Menstrual blood is important.

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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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

  • Mobilising young people between the age of 18-35 to become ‘Eco-Period Champions’ by making the switch to a sustainable menstrual alternative and becoming advocates for the project
  • All existing and upcoming public institutions (pink toilets, washrooms, schools, colleges, government offices, government buildings) across East Delhi to have affordable provisions for sustainable menstrual product options

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

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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