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How Using Menstrual Cups Helped Me Explore My Body Better

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Menstrual cups are the new up-and-coming trend among environment-friendly menstrual products, and it’s easy for anyone who’ve used them to understand why. I started using menstrual cups about 6 years ago, when they weren’t exactly common, and it has been the best decision for my periods ever. However, I want to talk about the impact using menstrual cups has had on me, and some of my friends, beyond that on our periods.

Considering that even in schools, teachers tend to leave the chapter on reproductive systems up for self-study, it should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that people, in general, tend not to know much about how our bodies work, especially the reproductive parts of it. Women especially are actively encouraged to not explore their bodies, or even talk about it. We’re socialised extremely young to consider various body parts as “private” (read: not to be touched or talked about).

Though my teacher did teach us the reproductive system chapter, I was still one who didn’t really understand my own body and was somewhat hesitant to explore my groin and vaginal area. Without ever clearly remembering being told that touching myself in those parts was wrong, I was always keenly aware of the forbidden nature of it, and hence, when I did, it must be kept a secret. Add in puberty, and there’s a completely new aspect added to why our vaginas are secretive and some version of impure: periods.

Using pads and tampons, the grossness which I (and almost everyone else) have been socialised to feel about menstrual blood, would kind of get reinforced. From the black bags in which we were given our products, to the whispers in which we were expected to ask for menstrual products in public…it is all oriented around the idea that menstrual blood is not just impure, and hence makes the person impure, but also that it’s inherently shameful. That shame, that grossness could be retained with pads and tampons because I didn’t have to touch the blood, I could easily wrap up the products super quickly and avoid even looking at it.

Using a menstrual cup changed all of that. Firstly, to use the cup, you have to get comfortable with entering your fingers inside the vagina. I’ve met many women who are not only uncomfortable with the idea of fingering themselves, but are acutely uncomfortable with the idea of anything but a penis penetrating them.

When I started using the cup, I wasn’t particularly uncomfortable with fingering myself, but there was also a societal shame which I felt. Initially, the cup was a good excuse to have to put my fingers up my vagina; I had a reason not to feel the shame. The more I used it, the less it became an excuse, and I became more comfortable. It did the same for the other women I know.

Not only do we have to get comfortable with putting our fingers up our vaginas, but also feel around in there, feel where the cervix is. I only learnt what the cervix actually is, what it feels like, after I started using the cup. Because I was the only one I knew who was using the cup at the time, I didn’t have anyone to ask questions to, so I spent a lot of time watching videos online and reading what other people had written, and through them what the purpose of the cervix is, how to identify it and so much more.

The interesting thing about feeling inside your vagina to figure out where your cervix is, to see if the cup is fully opened, and all that… you may also get an idea of what some erogenous areas of your vagina are. Many women feel hornier and have higher sensation in their vaginas during periods. It’s a great time to feel around in there to see what gives you pleasure, what’s just so-so, and what you may just not like.

Using the cup also helped me overcome that ‘socialised’ grossness about menstrual blood. While taking the cup out, it is quite inevitable that you’ll get some blood on your hand, and often, it won’t just be a little drop. It’s amazing how comfortable I have gotten with having blood on my hands and feeling absolutely no weirdness or grossness about it.

For a country where there are many families where the women aren’t even allowed to enter their own kitchens or bedrooms during menstruation, having that blood on your hands is a big way of understanding how absolutely natural it is, and how convoluted it is that we’ve been made to feel so gross about our own body functions.

Using menstrual cups didn’t just make my periods so so much easier to deal with (which it totally did), or just make me lessen the damage I was doing to the environment (again, a big plus for menstrual cups)…it also helped me get to know my body better.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

        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.

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