#PeriodPaath: Movement Of Awareness And Cleanliness

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To

Health Minister of Madhya Pradesh(MP),

Mr Tulsi Silawat

Respected Sir,

First of all, I extend my greetings to you for your valiant promise to bring an end to the scarcity of doctors and provide doctors at each village in the time to come. I urge to attract your attention to Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM), significance of which is often weighted less among other prevalent issues. In an attempt to make you aware of why MHM is essential, I would like to present some facts:

  • Smirti Irani , Central Minister of textiles and women and child development, mentioned in an article, published on Jan 3, 2020 in Dainik Jagran, a Hindi news paper, that 40% ladies in India are suffering from one or the other infection due to their failure to maintain required cleanliness during menstruation.
  • In India, almost 23 million ladies drop out of school on first menstruation cycle owing to unawareness and social beliefs.
  • Almost 74,000 ladies die of cervical cancer, caused by repetition of HPV infection during Menstruation, which is 33% of the total such deaths occurred across world.

Awareness on MHM can’t be raised to the masses unless every state plays a significant role in improving the situation. I would like to point out why as a state, we are required to take into it consideration of MHM.

  • Even though MP is not the most populous state, it does possess most people from schedule tribes (ST) community in India, who are deemed most deprived of basic facilities and education. It is our duty to make them aware about it.
  • The state is having less literacy rate than that of country’s.
  • According to World Bank, the economic contribution of Indian women is 17%, which is even less than half of global. We, being a developing state, will be largely benefitted economically and socially if proper means and facilities are provided to women in the state.
  • As the state is located in middle, connected well to large states, of the country, we have all the resources and geographical benefits to lead by example, turning it into a mass movement and inspire other states to replicate.

Not more than 10% women in rural areas know about sanitary napkins, they use unprotected during menstrual cycle. Social beliefs prevalent in the society about menstruation often prevent an open discussion about it in society, leading an unhealthy environment in society. Adolescent girls often feel fearful and ashamed to open up to it since they are made to feel or declared impure during period. Discrimination with women in this period often leads to an extent where they start losing confidence and keeping it to themselves at the same time. I have a few suggestions to make, which, I am sure, will help improve the situation at a broader level.

  • Surveys say that 67.7% of workplaces fail to provide sanitary napkins. The state should pass directives to make them do it compulsorily.
  • The availability of public and private toilets should be increased; cleanliness and availability of water needs to be maintained.
  • Workshops should be organized in rural areas, slums, schools and outskirt areas to spread awareness about menstrual cleanliness, bust myths associated with their social beliefs and encourage people to communicate at home to bring about a sense of comfort in their daughter.
  • Sanitary napkins should be distributed among women who can’t afford it, and, at the same time, the government should control the high prices charged by private companies to relieve the middle class women.
  • It may be observed that during lessons about period or sexual awareness, teachers seem to avoid teaching and command students to either leave the topic or study themselves. Hence, when teachers are trained, there should also be inclusion of the ways to get rid of shyness in them which prevent students from knowing importance of it.
  • The government should also lay emphasis on the use of reusable products like cloth pad and menstrual cup which effectively help in reducing garbage caused by sanitary napkins; incinerators are required to be installed in public toilets to maintain cleanliness.
  • To reduce the discriminatory practice, fine should be imposed on those who hurl abuses or demoralize a woman in any way during menstrual cycle.

I fully repose my confidence in you that you will take into accounts solutions offered by me.

Sincerely,

Pourush Gupta

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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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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