#PeriodPaath: Next Station…. Menstruation

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,

Mr A.K. Garg

Director of Operations

Delhi Metro Rail Corporation

Subject: Addressing the issues faced by menstruating women while commuting via the metro.

Dear Sir,

I hope this letter finds you well. This is to bring to your attention some suggestions to improve
services in public places for women, particularly during their menstruation cycle. Commuting,
undoubtedly is a challenge in our country and becomes worse for women due to pain during periods.
Some of us have the comfort of basic provisions like menstrual absorbents and pain medication which can provide us relief whereas other women have to make do with whatever is affordable to them.

That women menstruate is not something up for debate and I’m not trying to expound our physical
sufferings for that is something natural. What I want to discuss with you is how certain upgradations
and additions in the metro stations can go a long way in greatly reducing this suffering and making
travel for menstruating women convenient.

For millions of people working or otherwise commuting in the National Capital Region the Delhi Metro is almost a second home. There is no doubt that the Delhi Metro with its expanse and magnitude has made life and travelling far more fluent and convenient. But this institution can bring unprecedented comfort to a host of menstruating women who tend to face inconvenience daily.

Urban Indian women suffer from various reproductive health issues, in many cases their cycles are
affected by seemingly minute factors like stress and weather conditions. In fact, 84% of Indian
women report to suffer from extreme pain in the lower abdomen and one in every five women suffers
from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). All these factors making the menstrual cycles of many
women painful and unpredictable. The Noida metro stations in my (more than a few) unfortunate
experiences provide no relief or convenience in such unpredictable and downright urgent situations.
There is no pharmacy/store/kiosk which may supply us with provisions such as sanitary napkins,
tampons, pain medication, etc.

While there is always the option of seeking medical aid from the metro staff. It isn’t exactly feasible
for a woman or anyone for that matter to walk about the station looking for help as their body is
sore and in pain, also in most cases women do not have the time to seek medical aid as delay in
getting menstrual absorbents (sanitary napkins, tampons, menstrual cup, etc.) will lead to the
staining of women’s clothes in blood (for which they will be derided and shamed by those around
them).

Despite consistent growth and awareness regarding menstruation given the myths and
stereotypes attached to the subject in our society, many women find it crushingly humiliating and
shameful to ask strangers (especially males) to assist them with what is considered by them as the
most intimate and private aspect of their lives. Even if women are willing to go through the ordeal
for medication or menstrual absorbents, most of the old metro stations in Noida lack the provision
of washrooms which are inaccessible once you have gone past the checkpoint.

I know that active work has been done to solve this problem in the newer stations and for that me as well as all the other daily commuters of the Delhi Metro are highly grateful. But the inconvenience caused to the commuters between the old stations, unfortunately still remains unsolved. Women should not be humiliated on the topic of menstruation. These things further increase the pain of the women, especially emotionally and psychologically.

Installation of convenience stores/pharmacies which can provide cost effective and provisions
(sanitary napkins, tampons and pain medication) at all times. Not only would this provision make
metro travel convenient and comfortable for the plethora of menstruating women. It can also be used to promote the usage of hygienic materials for controlling menstrual flow. For all our rapid
development and progressive thinking, 22% of urban Indian women continue to use old clothes or
rags as menstrual absorbents. This makes them highly susceptible to possibly fatal infections in their reproductive organs.

They mostly resolve to these unhygienic means because the menstrual products by mainstream retailers are unaffordable. And while there are many alternative and cost-effective solutions being designed by various institutions, knowledge regarding them is limited to a scant handful of people. A metro station is one place which brings people from different walks of life together like little else does. Stores/pharmacies which provide cost effective and sustainable solutions by these institutions at ground level can potentially transform the landscape of reproductive health in the country.

Another possible step is to create provisions in the gating system which allows the women/men access to the washrooms in the circulating area of the metro station or otherwise the providing washrooms within the present station complex.

Menstruation is a natural process, an indication that a woman has attained reproductive maturity.
Therefore, it is unfair when something so natural is regarded with general disgust by society or
commercialised by huge conglomerates. While we as a society are working towards overcoming this
unfair way of seeing menstruation there is still a long way to go. Easy provision of menstruation related products at the metro stations or other public places would be a step towards sensitization regarding periods. And while it may not necessarily change the perspective of the people but I can assure you that it can be a splendid beginning.

There is no denying that social change and betterment of society is a gradual process but it is also a
voluntary one. It comes from aligning intention and action together. And while I may only be capable
of right intentions, you sir, are capable of both in a far larger capacity. If this letter reaches you, I
would be highly grateful if you contemplate upon its content. Since menstrual health is a major issue in our country and small steps like these can solve it.

Yours Sincerely,
Moksha Sharma

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