#PeriodPaath: Our Bleeding Warriors

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!

Smt. Sanyukta Bhatia

The Mayor, Lucknow

50, Singar Nagar Rd,  Alambagh,

Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh 226005.

Sub: Matters pertaining to menstruation and female sanitation

Respected Madam,

Please accept my heartiest congratulations on becoming the first female Mayor of Lucknow city. I write to you to express my concern regarding the trials and tribulations of menstruating females in Ashiyana Area. I sincerely hope that as a female you will empathise with our problems and devise stringent measures to alleviate them.

As law students, the first lesson imparted to us is on the virtue of Equality, envisaged in Article 14 of the Constitution. However, the reality is that 48% of the Indian population is struggling to have access to basic amenities of sanitation and good health. In this letter, I  enlist the issues confronting menstruating women and proffer suggestions that Your Ladyship can incorporate in the sanitation policy.

Firstly, Indian women are already battling malnutrition. Menstruation is a further drain on their Iron and Vitamin levels. Supplementary pills are inexpensive and should be actively provided to females, specifically to young girls and working women who often suffer from nausea, headache, cramps and dizziness. Teachers can be instructed to educate girls about an iron-rich diet during these days to combat illness.

Secondly, 3 in 4 women experience painful cramps. The medicines available cannot be afforded by impoverished women. Distributing such medicines in mobile vans at nominal rates in slums would relieve these toiling women of severe pain.

Thirdly, Lucknow has established only one ‘Pink Toilet’ till now. These toilets, as you are aware, provide a safe environment and dispense sanitary napkins at nominal or no cost. We are in dire need of them in slums, markets, railway stations, airports and highways (for women on the go).

Fourthly, women are more vulnerable to pelvic infections during periods.  Public toilets should be frequently sanitised and swept and flushes should be consistently functional to avoid such illnesses.

Fifthly, the plastic content of sanitary napkins is of great threat to the environment. The Corporation should supply alternatives like menstrual cups(they can last up to 10 years) and cotton pads which are reusable) in ‘Pink Toilets’ to encourage women to use them. This will single-handedly solve the problems of sanitation and clogging of sewers and drains.

Sixthly, young girls often encounter humiliation and mockery from adolescent boys. Schools, public and private, should be mandated to organise ‘Sensitivity Sessions’ elucidating the biological reasons behind menstruation. These sessions will be a secure space for girls to share their discomfort with boys and garner their cooperation during these days.

I earnestly hope that you will pay heed to the enlisted problems and devise a strict plan of action. It is time we stop sacrificing girl’s dreams and esteem at the cost of menstruation myths.

Sincerely,

Priyanka Preet

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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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