#PeriodPaath: Menstrual Hygiene Open Letter

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To

Shri Gautam Gambhir,

Member of Parliament,

East Delhi

Subject-Open letter regarding menstrual hygiene

My name is Kartik Chaudhary and I am from Indirapuram Public School,Indirapuram Menstruation is a process that happens in the female body, involving the shedding of the uterus lining every month when the egg received from the ovaries is not fertilized. In this process, there is a discharge of blood and other fluids from the vagina. There are various problems all over the world in relation to menstrual hygiene. Some of them are a lack of information about menstruation, unsatisfactory sanitation infrastructure, supplies often being unavailable or unaffordable. This is particularly a problem in the developing countries of the world. For a very long time this has been considered as a problem of women, although encouraging signs of changes in attitude have become visible in recent times. Traditionally in parts of the Indian subcontinent, menstruation has been considered to be dirty and impure, instead of a biological phenomenon that it is. The origins of this taboo can be traced all the way back to the Vedic times. In the Hindu faith, women are prohibited from participating in normal day to day activities while menstruating. They are forbidden from entering the kitchen. They are also prohibited from entering temples and praying. They are also not allowed to touch holy books while menstruating. It is also common for girls to miss school while menstruating. A particularly draconian practice is Chhaupadi, prevelant to this day in western Nepal, where menstruating women are made to live in confinement in a cattle shed or makeshift ‘menstruation hut’. Another example of such taboos is the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, where women of menstruating age were forbidden from entering. While this has been the situation in the past and is still prevalent in major parts of the country, there are welcome signs of positive change visible in India today. There has been a sustained effort on part of the various governments to increase awareness about menstruation and menstrual hygiene. Civil society and various NGOs have also played their part in taking this awareness to the grassroots level. A major boost to this fight against the taboos of menstruation was also provided when the movie ‘Pad Man’ by popular actor Akshay Kumar released. The movie was a hit while also delivering a very important social message to the people. An important instance in this fight against menstrual taboo was also the Supreme Court’s decision in the Sabarimala case, where it decided that women of menstruating age can also enter the temple. This provided confidence to women in other parts of India as well. The stigma associated with menstrual hygiene could be removed through social awareness campaigns. It is important to make people aware of the importance of menstrual hygiene and to get rid of myths and taboos. Providing clean and accessible restrooms to girls and women is also an extremely important requirement. This has been helped by the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. But in order to achieve even better results, this has to be accompanied by many more steps in this direction. Giving menstrual education in schools to both the male and female students will also go a long way in creating awareness in the society. But all this will be of no use if affordable sanitary pads are not available to women, because a major population of India is still very poor and cannot afford expensive sanitary pads. Additionally, improving access to obstetricians, especially in government hospitals is extremely important. Once we are able to do this, it will be a very proud achievement for our country.

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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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