#PeriodPaath: Aware And Avail

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To,

Shri Narendra Modi

Prime Minister

India

“Change does not come by doing, change happens by doing”

Sir,

Over the past few years, your policies have bought a kind of wave in the country. Be its inclusion of people in the banking sector, saving the girl child or removing open defecation, there is always something to talk about. However, one important issue that you missed to address is menstruation hygiene. Menstruation hygiene is a global issue, which affects women and so the whole house. Sadly, it is in her house where she is discriminated the most.

Also called as girl’s problem or periods, mensuration has always been linked to ‘wo mahinon ke kuch din’, where the women are considered to be impure and an alien being in the house. The most surprising fact is, where the advertisement industry explicitly broadcast sleazy and steamy visuals for a condom and perfume advertisement, not once do they say out loud the term ‘periods’ while selling pain relief tonics or sanitary pads; an irony as well as misfortune.

Sir, periods are an important medical phenomenon in a woman’s life. Though crucial for her reproduction system, it is detested not only by them but also by the men alike. While we hate it for the pain, discomfort and irritation that it brings with it, men dislike it for the change in behaviour of their partners, and the disgust they feel around it. We have still been not able to win the battle of Sabarimala temple yet. In spite of all the arguments which say that the goddess herself went through this phenomenon, the men and often women too still consider entering the temple as a sin, which every woman after an age commits unwillingly. Somewhere I feel this is one of the major reasons why the importance of menstrual hygiene is not looked upon as something which should be taken care of or even addressed.

Periods are one of the most difficult days of any woman’s life. With painful cramps, mood swings, upset digestive system, weakness, dehydration, etc., periods are a kind of nightmare that I am sure no men would like to endure. While no appropriate measures are taken to help us tackle and bear with it, our dignity is compromised by calling us as impure and often keeping us away from the other family members, with restrictions on our movement and our involvement in holy things.

I ask for your help in two ways, awareness and arrangements. The first stage, awareness. We face so much discrimination because people are not completely aware of menstruation. What it is? Why is it biologically important and how it affects our health. It needs to be told that it is not a disease that they cannot talk about. This unawareness negates the importance of the availability of sanitary pads that is so necessary for our hygiene and health.

And so, the second stage is the availability of sanitary pads. During mensuration, our vagina is very sensitive and vulnerable to any kind of outside pollutants. It makes it very necessary for us to be careful to maintain cleanliness and hygiene around ourselves to avoid infections. Sadly many girls lack this basic facility. They do not have access to clean toilets, leave alone sanitary pads. Hundreds of girls miss their schools every month because they do not have adequate facilities in school for their period days. Girls are forced to use raged cloth, dirty napkins, re-usable towels etc. for their periods which is extremely dangerous for their health. According to a public health research study only 15% of women use sanitary pads, rest relying on homemade products during periods. Another study by the United Nations Population fund concluded that 60% of women affected by reproductive tract infection blamed it on poor menstrual hygiene.

Having said that, you can improve this condition by making sanitary pads available easily around the country. It would be great if it is for free, but if not, availability on a nominal cost would still make a huge difference.  Moreover, girls should be able to get it themselves, from shops or from vending machines across the villages and cities to avoid staking their health every month.

Sir, there have been many people and organization around the globe who are working towards removing the taboo around menstruation. One whom I have personally met is Pravin Nikam, a torchbearer of menstrual hygiene. Founder of Roshni  Foundation, an organization who is working towards creating awareness around menstruation. We need more of such people and government support to help them achieve their goals.

Sir, as women are a crucial element of a country’s progress, taking steps to keep them healthy is equally important. I urge you to look in this direction and ensure that we are cared for when we need it the most, every month.

Thank you

A citizen.

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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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