#PeriodPaath: Reading Between The Shy: Menstrual Hygiene For Women Across The City

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 Women Welfare Minister Government of Uttar Pradesh India Sub: Regarding the need to ensure better public toilets and regularization of health facilities for domestic helps Respected Madam, This is with reference to the sanitation conditions in the rural areas of the ‘still-urban’ city of Noida. Two days before I planned on voicing this issue, I observed a pink toilet in Khoda colony that has been recently opened. I am elated at the development for two reasons. One, in an area like Khoda colony through which most regular commuting happens, a toilet for women is a great relief for those of us who happen to come back late in the evenings and have to control the urge to relieve ourselves till we reach home. Two, a pink toilet situated at the middle of the road is a symbolic reminder of how women too are humans and that their if their needs are taken care of, it is no big deal. There, however, is another angle to the development that I wish to highlight. One, the scarcity of well maintained public toilets in the area, especially for menstruating women. As a woman who has used many public toilets while out of her home, I find it disheartening to witness that an appalling divide exists between the quality of restrooms in shopping malls, etc and those that exist for public in general. While the former is almost always well-maintained and well-staffed, the ones for general public are often left at the mercy of the caretakers who often confine themselves to collecting the ‘toilet usage fee’. This leads to the foul smelling toilets with malfunctioning flushes and at times, no water or soap availability. The availability of sanitary napkin-vending machines is indeed a great relief but the awareness regarding the same is not at the same scale. If the example of Noida Metro toilets is any indication, most vending machines would not have any napkins to dispense, no soaps to use. The absence of female assistance further prevents most of the women to report the issue. This hassle in a process that should not take more than ten minutes, adds to the menstrual pain. Needless to say, a toilet facility ends up complicating more than facilitating things. Two, the unseen and unattended pain of menstruating women in the unorganized sector. The industrial area of Noida has many domestic helps. Needless to say, most of them are women who despite being money-earning women of their families, are not officially ever recognized. However, what makes me write about them is their constant fight with the menstrual pain that they have to bear with no medical help. A general lack of awareness prevails which prevents them from seeking the right help despite living in a modern city. I sincerely wish to see the day this aspect of their work is regularized, by, say, giving them a health card or some mode of free treatment during their menstruation days. Lack of sanitation facilities affects everybody equally. I feel it a part of my duty to use my privilege of voice to take this matter to you and hope for immediate action. While the idea of pink toilet is great, it is sad to see just one developed so far in an area that is one of the fastest growing sectors of the state.   Thank You. With great hope, Shagun

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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
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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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