#PeriodPaath: Intra School Competition By Youth Ki Awaaz On Menstrual Hygiene

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!

An open letter to

The honourable Shrimati Smriti Irani

Minister Of Woman and Child Development, Government Of India

24 January 2020

 

Respected Maam,

I am Ms. Aparajita Lohmor,studying in class 6-H of DPS Indirapuram School, Ghaziabad,UP,India.I along with my classmates attended a workshop on the topic of menstrual health conducted by my teachers.I was surprised and puzzled to learn that as we grow up we bleed every month and it’s natural!!

When I shared the information with my mother,I realised that I was blessed to be born in a family who could afford to help me in all aspects related to menstrual health when I will need them.But,it saddened me that girls born in poor families are deprived of basic-facilities required during this period,I overheard the maid working at my house and lives in a nearby village telling my mom that she could not come during her periods when she bleeds and her clothes get stained because she cannot afford for sanitary pads.Using old torn clothes as an absorbent is insufficient.Her daughter also skips schools during her periods because she feels fear and embarrassment that her school uniform might get stained.Often she develops fever during her periods due to infection in her reproductive tract because-of unhygienic practices during her periods.She is made to sleep in a separate shed adjoining her one room house making her prone to many risks.She even failed in class-7 due to her monthly absence from school leading to poor academic-performance.It surprised me that my friends who belong to well-to-do families do not attend social and religious functions as they are considered dirty and inauspicious during this time.I fail to understand how a natural body function bestowed upon us by god for procreation of future generations could be inauspicious and embarrassing.My friends don’t come out to play during this period due to myths and taboos fed into their mind.

All this stirs my conscience.It is a gross violation of a girls-rights. Respected Ma’am,I request you to implement programs which could spread awareness through mass media etc on this topic helping to bust myths and taboos ingrained in people’s minds.

Dear Ma’am,if possible,please include education on menstrual-heath-and-hygiene as a part of the school-curriculum so that girls understand the normal physiological-process and can easily differentiate it from dirt,inauspiciousness,and,mortification.It would also make them learn how to take care of themselves with hygienic practices during this period.

Ma’am,the government has already well formulated national policies of vaccinations and mid day meals for wide coverage of all children.Similarly I request you earnestly to make free sanitary pads available to all underprivileged girls to enable them to attend school regularly,perform better academically,and become healthy,empowered,educated and confident citizens capable of contributing towards the country’s development .If not free pads,I suggest that you could implement schemes for large scale production of cheap and tax free sanitary pads which could be accessible and affordable to every girl even in the remotest corner of the country.Another issue which needs to be dealt with is implementation of programs facilitating construction of toilets and availability of clean water and dustbins,in every school and homes so that even the underprivileged girls would have the convenience of changing pads,washing themselves,and disposing the used pads in privacy.Lets join hands to make menstrual hygiene a priority,an integral part of every girls life,yet shrouded under the wraps.Let us observe World Menstrual Hygiene day on 28 may 2020 on a national scale for spreading awareness.Rome was not built in a day,but your initiative and our sustained efforts will definitely make a positive impact in every girls life.Let the sky be the limits for every girl.

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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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