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Menstrual Cups: A Safer And Better Way To Bleed

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This post is a part of Periodपाठ, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with WSSCC to highlight the need for better menstrual hygiene management in India. Click here to find out more.

In Indian households, menstruation has been a topic that remains overlooked forever. Therefore concerns like menstrual health and hygiene, which should have been indispensable, are rarely being discussed either on the internet or through any campaign, which is accessible to a handful of people, leaving behind almost 85% of the Indian women.

I remember having my first period with a state of mind where I had never had any discussions on what a menstruation cycle was. I was appalled and anxious; all my questions stood unanswered. I was only told that I was a big girl from then on, and with time, I would learn how to deal with it.

This time of the month started becoming a nightmare for me which I had to survive anyway without telling or discussing it with anyone. I was given cloth to use at first place, later on, I switched to pads when I went to the hostel—which I found much more convenient and comfy, of course.

This above-mentioned situation is as common as periods for every girl in a middle class society. Now, there are thousand other taboos associated with periods which make it even worse than they already are. These taboos vary from place to place.

In some villages, they might be more vicious than the other. But, not entering sacred or holy places and touching sacred things remain common everywhere, makes any sense? Yes, in India.

Despite many movies, short movies, videos, awareness campaigns and articles flooding the internet, menstrual health and hygiene is in a constant state of abeyance in our country. While things like the menstrual cup were invented back in 1937, in India, women are still using cloth and convincing women to use a pad is a Himalayan task mostly in rural areas.

Today, we have a lot of things to combat periods like sanitary pads, cloth pads (reusable), disposable panties, tampons, menstrual cups and many more off my knowledge. But in India, only sanitary pads are being marketed and channelled all around neglecting all the other means. Which is the biggest reason that in India, roughly 6–7% of women know about these additional methods to survive their periods.

Created by Rashmi Singh

Would you prefer using a menstraul cup during periods?

Menstrual Cups: Magic And Myths Associated With It

Talking about menstrual cups, they are used during menstruation as a safer and better way to bleed. The menstrual cup is inserted inside the vagina. It stays there up to 8–10 hours collecting all the blood which is washed and placed again until the period lasts. In western countries, it has been in vogue ever since it was invented. However, in India, women even don’t know if such things exist and to all who know, it is problematic for many reasons which I’ll discuss later.

By and large, a menstrual cup is the only sustainable and civilized way to bleed. It is eco-friendly, cost-effective and a reusable means which can be used for 5–10 years. Now imagine the number of pads you’ll have to use and the money you’ll have to spend in this time span. Also, the amount of hazardous substance in the form of pads, you will dump in the ocean.

On the face of it, a menstrual cup is definitely something you must have during your menstruation. It is leakage proof and doesn’t produce any intolerable smell. Once inside your vagina, you forget that you’re menstruating for the next 8 to 10 hours. Hence, it’s magic in many more ways which you will discover and will be writing about, after using it for sure.

Myths

1. Coming along to myths, the very first myth about the menstrual cup is that by using it, one can lose their virginity, which is illogical since hymen is an elastic tissue which is flexible and can’t be torn by using these cups. Moreover, this cup remains in the outer vagina and doesn’t necessarily harm the hymen.

2. The second myth is that after insertion, it goes missing inside the vagina and comes out only after surgery which again is a big misconception since the vagina is not a cave or tunnel which engulfs things. Vagina only contains space till your cervix which is a tiny space and the cup remains stuck to it. So again, there is no hide and seek with the cup, and it’s safe.

3. The third one is that how would someone pee while wearing a menstrual cup. So to enrich your biology ladies, you need to inspect your vagina again and this time with greater caution. Women have three openings—urethra, vagina and anus and urethra is an opening from where you pee; hence, no worries about holding your pee and cursing your bladder while using a menstrual cup!

4. The fourth one is that it’s painful, uncomfortable and harmful to the body. Now you might feel a little uneasy in the first go, but later on, you get used to it like you get used to your periods. So again, no pain and miseries using menstrual cups. So far as the health is concerned, it is made of silicone and is not at all harmful to your body; however, great care should be taken while picking up one.

These are some common myths about menstrual cups which must be busted, and these cups should be encouraged for happy periods!

Menstruation is a natural phenomenon that ought to be discussed, and these discussions ought to be promoted at the ground level inside the rural households. Each child should be taught about  menstruation, not only girls but boys, too, should be given such education to make them compassionate and help create such an environment where menstruation and problems associated with it can become a common topic of discussions such as memes, careers, new clothes and crushes.

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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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