#PeriodPaath: Because I Can’t Resist It No More

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!

To,
The Hon. Minister for Health and Family Welfare,
Govt. of India,
New Delhi.

Subject: Request to support the media and the broadcast sector in an endeavor to disentangle the societal stigma

Dear Sir,

With the menstrual taboos scaling the heights every day, the refurbished advertisements are making an essay to put people into a single mold of the belief that – the process is entirely natural. On a personal note, I feel proud of what our communication companies are trying to impersonate. From the last couple of years, corporations have tried various activities such as women empowerment to alleviate the shame affiliated with bleeding taboos. Still, nothing seems to accomplish according to the plans. If the spheres targeted are to be examined, the advertisements steer their objectives towards shattering the following myths: being tight-lipped and quiet on menses, treating menstruating women as filthy and impure, the restrictions on women in terms of performing specific tasks during periods, etc.

The initial launch of the publicity by “Whisper,” “Stay free,” and “Sofy” had metamorphosed the idea of keeping impressions on menstruation secret. How many of us know that the brand tag “whisper” was given to mimic precisely what we do- “whispering about menstrual cycles.” Reflecting on these advertisements, the brand did not use any words related to ‘periods,’ ‘cycles,’ or ‘menstruation’ during its launch in 2011. They began with the campaign depicting a girl who refuses to participate in a dancing competition due to her ovulation process. Unfortunately, we just realized the societal part of the advertisement and commenced ‘whispering’ to others, “India’s media and cultural regulations are degenerating.”

The advertisement had nothing to do with any societal perspective. It wanted to focus on the difficulties women need to undergo (both physiologically and psychologically) throughout her ovulation process. I was reading a book named “Burning Woman’ by Lucy Pearce where she aptly describes that Once we start to sculpture with Feminine power, we incept to see that it is not our minds that are in control of this command – it recedes and flows with the movements of the planets, the cavalcade of the seasons, the moons and tides, our internal cycles of menstruality, anniversaries, the experiences around us. All these and more, impact our experience and emotions of power. We learn to become cognizant of these various patterns and their impact on us and work more consciously with rather than against or in spite of them. We learn that they are all part of the same process. We open towards the potential, rather than shut down to it. We learn to esteem the flow.

The media evolved with society, and in the year 2014, the same company had launched the second phase of their campaign titled “Touch the Pickle.” This time, Whisper wanted to shed light more on the rejection and the restriction practices that are associated with bleeding. The idea of bringing such an essential concept in Indian television graveled the stepping stones for inscribing something bigger.

Recent endorsements by the sanitary brands also characterize women in the role of chefs sweating in a kitchen, passengers going around the world instead of being restrained within four walls, competing in sports, etc. This again challenges the boundaries that are made to restrict the approach of menstruating women in several places.

We all would agree that media is one of the most significant influences in our daily life, which gradually changes our habits. I urge the government to focus and invest more in these advertisements not only to cultivate the spirit of women empowerment but also to break the societal taboos on the menstrual cycle.

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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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