#PeriodPaath: Publicising Periods

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!

Radhika Agrawal

Tagore International School, Vasant Vihar

To,

Mr. Harsh Vardhan

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

In India, there are around 355 million menstruating women. Hence, menstruation and menstrual hygiene are important social subjects. 

A 2014 UNICEF report indicated that in Tamil Nadu, 79 per cent girls and women have no information about menstrual hygiene practices. This percentage was 66% in Uttar Pradesh, 56% in Rajasthan and 51% in West Bengal. Lack of awareness is a major problem which is caused because menstruation is still considered ‘dirty’, ‘a lady’s problem’ etc. despite us being in the twenty first century. Taboos surrounding menstruation add to this and lead to girls dropping out of school, isolation and ultimately to lack of sanitation.  

Most of the women in rural India use items like leaves, soil and cloth to absorb period blood. These practices are unsanitary and unhygienic and increase chances of infection and other health hindrances. 

From a ban on advertisements on sanitary napkins in 1990, to a feature film, Pad Man, on the life of social activist Arunachalam Murugananthama low-cost sanitary napkin entrepreneur in 2018, India has indeed come a long way. The government has launched projects like Freeday Pad Scheme, the SABLA Programme and Menstrual Hygiene Scheme (MHS). 

 However we still need to keep thriving towards creating a world in which every women and girl can manage her menstruation in a hygienic way whenever she is–in privacy, safety, and with dignity. Moreover sanitary products should be available, accessible and affordable to all. 

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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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