#PeriodPaath: Menstrual Hygiene Open Letter

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Ms Smriti Irani

Ministry of Women and Child Development

Subject – Open letter regarding menstrual hygiene

While making the constitution of India, the makers borrowed the idea of equality from the French Republic. The most important aspect of this was that we did not limit ourselves to equality before the law. We also emphasized the ‘equality of opportunity’ for all groups. But it is a slap on the face of equality that every month, millions of adolescent girls have to face the menstrual cycle of pain, discomfort, shame, anxiety, and isolation just because we treat menstruation as a taboo. On one hand, we claim that all communities shall get equality, but then we simply ignore what all women have to regularly endure just to get on the same platform.

Our society has kept us in the dark for a very long time. We rarely discuss anything about menstruation in families or in schools. Many even consider it to be a female weakness and ban menstruating women from kitchens, crop fields or places of worship, forgetting the fact that without the “weak women”, they never would have taken birth in the first place. Most people, especially in rural areas do not even know that there is a range of products apart from pads for sanitary purposes. And rarely do we find people who know that 28th May is observed as Menstrual Hygiene Day.

It is extremely saddening to see that in many low and middle-income families, access to sanitary products is limited. Girls often resort to using materials such as mud, leaves, socks et al.

Therefore, the only solution to this global dilemma is creating awareness about menstruation and normalizing it. It is an ordinary and regular event that occurs in the life of every healthy adolescent girl. A vast number of women face incurable maladies because through-out generations, they have been made to feel ashamed of themselves and thus, they do not seek any medical help. It thus becomes imperative as a huge amount of numerous women risk their lives not only because of poverty but because of futile stigmas.

Another fact to be considered is that menstrual hygiene clearly qualifies as a necessity of life. Hence, it becomes the duty of governments around the world to adjust prices as well as treat it as a basic amenity for the lesser earning families.

We cannot attain equal opportunities as without the government, the education system and the society contributing towards the cause. It is time to finally abolish the absurd silence and shame that shroud this natural biological event. Menstruation, a sign of good health, must be normalized and celebrated.

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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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