#PeriodPaath

Editor’s Note: This post is an entry for the #Periodपाठ writing contest, a unique opportunity for you to write a letter and stand a chance of winning up to ₹30,000! The contest is organised by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with WSSCC. Find out more here and submit your entry!

Dear Delhi Government,

As I pick up my notebook to pen down this letter, I recall actress Kalki Koechlin’s advice to women- “whenever buying sanitary napkins, ask the shopkeeper loudly and confidently”. Reading this in a newspaper few years ago, I had promised myself I would swear by this piece of advice. Since then, whenever I’ve been to shops to buy my monthly essentials, I’ve made it a point that my voice reaches the shopkeeper’s auditory nerve. This, unfortunately (even though procuring pads is still a fortune), has never been a cakewalk. I do see men staring, few others gaping and still others standing with their heads hung down.

At the YKA Summit 2019, I got to listen to Mausam Kumari, the leader of Gram Nirman Mandal. She recounted how the elders of her village had ridiculed and discouraged her because she was bold enough to question period taboos.

Hard to accept, we live in a country where only 12% of the women have the privilege to use pads. the rest depend upon old rags, pieces of waste cloth. There are many like Mausam, going out of their way to provide low-cost sanitary pads to rural women the “many” are so less to guarantee a solution.

What divulges here is the divide between Ruralism and Urbanization, Poverty and Privilege: while one fights to obtain the right, the other fights to sustain it. What safely conceals behind is how deeply entrenched the irreverence for women is- facing contempt for Menstruation being just one view of the “multi-faceted” crises of surviving as  a woman.

The belief I’ve invested in you tells me that you are as determined to tackle the issue as so many women who are subjected to it. A hopeful solution is increasing Availability, Accessibility and Affordability. I’ve learnt that the government has been providing free sanitary pads to school-going girls. If that is so, the efforts have to be widened  to reach out to women who are unable to go to schools and those who’ve already passed out.  After all, sanitary napkins should never become a luxury. The other solution I strongly stand by is  Gender Sensitization in schools. Teaching every kid Justice, Equality and Respect for each other is essential. How liberating it would feel to carry sanitary napkins sans the black polythene! More liberating would be to receive the dignity every human is bound to receive (I wish Nirbhaya and Disha could receive that). And this has to be the objective of Gender Sensitization taught to young children.

If Menstruation is supposed to aid reproduction, no woman should menstruate and produce children who do not know how to respect her. Where I get to see girls like Greta Thunberg fighting against Climate Change, I have to see Mausam recalling society denying them their rights. However, wouldn’t it be nice to listen to her someday exclaiming how she was the last woman to put in efforts to counter taboos of Menstruation?

With utmost Respect and Faith,

Shikha

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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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