How This Punjab School Changed The Way Boys Talk About Periods

Period Paath logoEditor’s Note: This article is a part of #Periodपाठ, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with WSSCC, to highlight the need for better menstrual hygiene management among menstruating persons in India. Join the conversation to take action and demand change! The views expressed in this article are the author’s and are not necessarily the views of the partners.

Meenakashi Kumari still remembers a time when her friends would take a half-day or a chutti (leave) from school, just because they got their period. All that changed six months ago with a simple intervention—a sanitary pad vending machine installed inside the school premises, with pads made available to students for as less as ₹ 2.

Image provided by the author.

She is the school’s head girl and the in-charge of the ‘Pink Room’, the menstrual hygiene project of Bhai Kahan Singh Girls School, Nabha. The intervention, that has so far happened in 50 government schools in eight districts of Punjab, has transformed the lives of 8,000 girls and has been running as a part of a project run by the Khwahish Seva Society, a local NGO.

Now, thanks to the vending machine, we don’t fear anything. Also, they knew nothing about pads. They would use cloth, which their mothers would advise, which was unhygienic. All that has changed since the installation of the vending machine in our school,” Kumari said.

Image provided by the author.

The affordability of the pads has been a real game-changer, the students say. “The market price of pads is ₹30 to ₹35, but in school, the same pad is available for two rupees,” noted Meenakshi. For someone like Meenakshi, whose father is a labourer, this has made all the difference. A similar sentiment has been echoed by other students at the school with similar financial backgrounds.

Image provided by the author.

Ours is a government school, so most students belong to low-income families and can’t afford sanitary pads at market prices. And, their parents thought sanitary pads were a waste of money. But, the vending machine has spread awareness among students, and girls now know that using pads is hygienic,” said Ramandeep Kaur, a teacher at the school.

With the installation of an incinerator, students are also learning how to dispose menstrual waste responsibly. The impact of the intervention has been telling.

Enrolment and attendance at the school have soared. “Before the machine’s installation, the school had approximately 1,400 students,” said Sukhjeet Kaur, a teacher at the school, adding that “Today, this school is the largest in Patiala district with over 1,600 girl students.”

Getting Boys Involved

At the Garlon Bet government school in Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar district, the school decided to take the conversation to their male students too, who visit neighbouring villages to spread awareness on the issue.

We didn’t know about menstruation until our teacher told us about the topic,” said Raju, a student at the school. “I openly talk about periods at my home and here in school with girls too. On May 28, on Menstrual Hygiene Day, we took out a rally to make people aware of this topic. Ma’am had given us pads, which we gifted to our sisters at home.”

Representational image.

We started this menstrual hygiene project in 2015,” said Pardeep Kaur, a teacher. “Due to Bet area’s backwardness, we focused not only on school girls but on our whole area. We take out rallies in different villages. We held a poster-making competition in which even boys participated. Apart from this, once in a month, the school organises menstrual hygiene lectures for girls. When we started the project, girls were too shy to even say ‘pad’. They used the word ‘toffee’ instead. Now, they come and ask for pads,” Kaur said.

About the author: Sandeep Singh is a Machhiwara-based freelance writer, and a member of, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.

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

Bidisha was selected in’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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