#PeriodPaath: Safe And Sustainable Menstruation

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Kotwali Chowk,
The Mayor
Bhagalpur Municipal Corporation,

Subject: Raising Awareness for a Safer and Sustainable Menstruation.

Respected Mam,

With due respect, I would like to draw your attention to the biological phenomenon of menstruation, which in our society, continues to be a taboo. I must say that, fortunately, the number of women using proper sanitary devices for managing their periods is on a rise. However, the sanitary pads which are used by most of the teenaged girls and younger women have it’s own side-effects.

Firstly,the sanitary pads are designed to absorb blood.It needs to be changed frequently.Carelessness in changing the pads regularly may lead to ‘Toxic Shock Syndrome’ in which bacterial infection may
become deadly for the woman. Secondly the sanitary pads are not very affordable. Women in low-income households, who experience’ Period Poverty’, are unable to afford sanitary pads every month and use cloth for managing periods, which is unhygienic and therefore dangerous.

Thirdly, the disposal of sanitary pads, in itself, is a major concern for the environment. These pads are made of synthetic materials and take years to degrade. These pads end up in the landfills or oceans, causing land pollution and water pollution respectively. It is a major source of bio-medical waste. The people who handle these waste are exposed to it.

On an average, a woman uses over 10,000 sanitary pads during her lifetime. In India,we dispose of over 43.2 crore pads every year, that is nearly 9000 tonnes of waste! The world has realised the alarming need to save the environment. One of the ways in which it can be done is by adopting sustainable ways of managing menstruation.

I would like to refer to ‘menstrual cups’ as a means for the same. These are little-known flexible devices made of silicon, rubber or latex. They are inserted into the vagina to capture the menstrual
blood. These cups can be left in place for 4-12 hours,before being emptied, rinsed and reinserted.
The young girls and women of our town need to be educated about a healthier and environment friendly way to manage periods.

Regarding this, I wish to suggest a few ways. One, the schools in Bhagalpur can organise awareness campaigns for girl students. Teachers can educate the girls,preferably of classes X,XI and XII first, and subsequently, the lower classes about menstrual cup and how to use it. Parent-teacher meetings can be one possible way of interaction, wherein girls along with their mothers can be educated about it.

One very important fact which needs to be stressed upon is that the device has absolutely no impact on a female’s virginity, as is also mentioned on the pacakge. The teachers in charge, need to explain
the different sizes in which menstrual cups are available and how different age-groups need to use different sizes.

Two, I would like to be clear about the fact that the menstrual cups are not very cheap. A single menstrual cup costs around Rs.300- Rs. 400 (available online on discounted rates). However, when it is compared to the expenses a woman incurs annually,and ultimately over the number of years, menstrual cup turns out  to be highly cost-effective and durable. A single menstrual cup can be used for 10 years. Hence, it can be called a one time investment for 10 years, at a stretch.

I request the Corporation to allocate funds for free distribution of these menstrual cups to girls in schools, so that they may spread the word,after using it to their friends, sisters and female relatives.I
would also request the NGOs and other clubs running in the town such as Rotary Club,Being Bhai Foundation etc. to contribute for this cause.

The women in rural areas of Bhagalpur can be approached via aanganwadi workers. Further, the gynaecologists in the town can actively participate in spreading the word to the females visiting their
clinics. I would urge some of the well known gynaecologists of our town such as Dr. Veena Sinha, Dr. Archana Jha etc. to come forward for this initiative and inspire other doctors as well. These clinics can distribute menstrual cups to the females from poor families.

Three, these menstraul cups are available online on amazon, flipkart, etc. at a discounted rate of almost 30%.The cups must be bought online to make optimum use of the funds. These steps,if implemented, can greatly reduce the amount of bio-medical waste generated in our town. As Bhagalpur aspires to become a ‘Smart City’, I really wish that our women learn to manage their
menstruation in a smart way and contribute to the environment as well.

Therefore, I request you to sensitise the people about this issue and take initiatives for proper education to boys and girls alike, on menstruation, in schools, so that hopefully, nobody wrinkles their noses, when this topic comes up. I shall be highly obliged to you for this act of kindness.

Thanking you,
Yours sincerely,
Soumya Jha

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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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