#PeriodPaath: A Letter To The Mayor Of Mumbai Requesting Better Menstrual Hygiene Facilities

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!

To

Smt Kishori Pednekar.

Honourable Mayor of Mumbai

CST, FORT,

Mumbai – 400001.

Date-31/1/2020

 

Dear Madam,

Requesting your help for the awareness and betterment of menstrual hygiene in Mumbai.

I write you this letter to draw your attention towards certain pressing issues regarding the menstrual hygiene of women in our community. Due to lack of education and accessibility to affordable sanitary napkins, women have resorted to using cloths (in some cases one cloth is shared by an entire family!) during their period of menstruation. This hasled to sexually transmitted infections, fungal infections, urinary infections, and infertility amongst other problems. In the rest of this letter, I would like to highlight the most pressing issues along with some solutions that I hope we can action on together.

There are three major problems when it comes to menstrual hygiene. Firstly, lack of knowledge of the problems that women may face by using cloths instead of pads. This dearth of information deprives women of making a decision that could impact their lives (for the better) forever. Secondly, the cost of sanitary napkins. Women do not prefer buying pads as they are unaffordable and cheap pads cannot be accessed easily. Lastly, even if we created a system where everyone used sanitary pads, we would still run into the issue of incorrect disposal of these napkins. Women either flush them down the toilet that clogs our drainage system or they throw them on the street. There are many rag pickers, garbage cleaners and street animals that pick encounter there pads up and sometimes open them, which is extremely unhygienic. Proper disposal of pads is also an important part of menstrual hygiene that affects our entire community.

In order to combat the problems highlighted above, we can focus on educating people (not just women) about the benefits of sanitary pads, increase the accessibility to affordable pads , by having vending machines kept at various public area so  have easy and affordable access and create a system to dispose these pads in a hygienic manner. We can increase awareness through monthly education camps that inform people about the possible infections caused by poor menstrual hygiene along with the importance of sanitary pads. Moreover, we can ensure to have these camps in the localities native language to improve adoption of our message. It is imperative that we focus on educating both genders to create a supportive environment for women who wish to use sanitary pads.The camps can be conducted by near by college students in presence of their teachers as part of their curriculum.We must have local cable tv as well as tv channel featuring small clips on importance of menstrual hygiene.  Furthermore, we could vet several options ranging from setting a price ceiling on pads to subsidizing them and increasing accessibility, in order to make this option viable for families with low income. We must have vending machines providing affordable and easy access to sanitary napkins  specially in crowded areas ,corporate companies , schools andcolleges . Lastly, we should install separate dustbins for pads in schools, work-places, slums and other parts of Mumbai that will enable us to collect this waste and dispose it correctly in an incinerator.

To bring to life some of my recommendations above, I talked to She-wings, a non-governmental organization, that is willing to help our cause. They have agreed to set up monthly camps with the objective to educate our community on menstruation and the importance, use and disposal of sanitary pads. In order to incentivize our audience, they will hand out pads to whoever attends the camp. You can help by funding this initiative to financially enable the NGO to give out free pads. We can also work together to start installing separate dustbins for pads throughout Mumbai. I urge you to look into this matter and help foster a healthier, safer and cleaner ‘aamchi Mumbai’. I am confident that our collaboration will result in nothing but a more progressive society with a more hygienic environment for everyone. Last but not the least myself Prajna Wankawalla would whole heartedly put my best foot ahead to bring in the change required in order to respect human life and our environment.

Thank you for your time and I look forward for positive reply from you.

 

Yours sincerely,

Prajna Wankawalla

9th grade student.

Featured image courtesy: medium.com

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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