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5 Period Path Breakers You Need To Follow. Right Now!

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In India today, that the personal is political is perhaps best exemplified by the notion of menstruation. Amongst other equally appropriated aspects of Indian citizenry. You have the Sabarimala issue on one hand, and the quiet but persistent devotion at the Kamakhya temple on the other hand.

While these two are positioned at the end of the spectrum, what remains in between is getting your period in daily life. It differs for people, depending on where they come from, what access they have, what their bodies demand, and what age group they occupy.

For ensuring proper menstrual hygiene management, which by definition, involves being able to manage menstruation hygienically and with dignity, access to accurate and pragmatic information (those who do and don’t menstruate) about menstruation and menstrual hygiene is crucial. Here are five resources you can learn from, cite and enjoy!

1) Tanvi Johri

Sensitive skin and sanitary pads is a saga best compared to any Akshay Kumar movie in the last three years. It may start out comfortably, but the end result isn’t always… the best.

Carmesi is a brand that has taken up this challenge head on. Tanvi Johri, co-founder and CEO, has a clear objective: to create a product that is sustainable for the environment, and to give every girl and woman a menstrual hygiene solution that would relieve them of the stigma surrounding their period while offering a safe, comfortable alternative.

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While we often write about body love and acceptance, we know that loving your body isn’t always the easiest task. A girl with poker straight hair might long for luscious curls, or a woman with broad hips might feel too self-conscious to wear tight jeans. From bad hair days, sun-tans, unexpected pimples, and unsolicited hair fall, a lot can make you feel low about your body. So maybe it’s time we redefine what Body Love really means. Body Love, like loving your family members, is accepting your body with all its faults, and learning to still have fun with it. It means being unfazed by what others think of your body, and doing your best to keep it healthy, clean, and happy. Forgive your body for its shortcomings, like you forgive your annoying siblings. Feed it healthy meals, pamper it with a good massage, and take pride in your ample bosom and hairy armpits. But, body acceptance does not propagate body negligence. It does not mean dismissing your weaknesses and limiting yourself to what feels comfortable. It’s striking a balance between your body, and your expectations of it. ? @focale_creative #bodylove #selflove #bodycare #womenshealth

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While the first is ensured by the fact that all Carmesi pads are biodegradable, and thus made from biodegradable bamboo fiber and corn starch, Johri is also committed to ending period shaming. This is carried out by Carmesi’s informative, practical, awareness-oriented Instagram feed, that you should definitely check out.

2) Annu Jha

Moving the conversation about menstrual hygiene management to access is pointless without addressing the stigma attached to periods. A study found that out of more than 355 million menstruating women and girls in India, 71% report having no knowledge of menstruation before their first period.

An unwillingness to discuss periods remains prominent despite efforts of sensitisation. One person who’s addressing this is Gandhi Fellow Annu Jha. A perfect example of thinking global but acting local, Jha conducted various workshops in Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan, one event among which witnessed a participation of over 309 students, 56 women and 53 male members from the community.

Post the success of her initiative, the model was adopted by the Additional District Project Coordinator of RMSA, Jhunjhunu!

3) Sanitary Panels

Humour can be highly effective while communicating about complex matters, as observed by Rachita Taneja, the creator of this webcomic. Taneja addresses political, social, and cultural notions attached with menstruation through her aptly titled comic, while offering acute commentary on various other current affairs.

While it is important to demand better resources and engage with policymakers for improved access, a lot of changemaking is futile if questions aren’t asked on an individual level. If you’re struggling with the answers, head straight to the profile of what’s down below.

4) Saleha Khan

One person can change things. Especially when the matter is traditionally kept hush hush. Saleha Khan is a Save The Children Child Champion, but more than that, she is representative of millions of Indian girls who fight their circumstances every single day to break out of the culture of silence they grew up in.

Khan is a resident of Govandi, Mumbai and after one (ineffective) menstruation session in her school, she realised the conversation around periods needed to break taboos as well as be inclusive. Bridging this gap, Khan conducted more than 250 sessions on the right menstrual health and hygiene with the youth of her area. Here’s a sneak peek of what her contribution means for MHM in India.

5) Aditi Gupta

While accessible and practical resources about sexual and reproductive health have increased over the last few years (think of the Red Book series by TARSHI), issue and experience specific myth busting is the need of the hour if we are to move towards a socially just way of life. Menstrupedia is Aditi Gupta’s brainchild that uses comics and a YouTube channel to impart information about everything that having your periods mean.

Gupta’s work not only aims at revealing taboos for what they are, but also the normalcy of puberty and other biological processes, a positive portrayal of a perfectly natural phenomenon, and the social implications of good and bad health.

The aegis of MHM in India is set to expand – we are talking about it, taking action, educating others and coming together more than ever. If you have thoughts and experiences you’d like to share, click here to publish now. And if you think this list missed out, leave a comment below!

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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 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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