#PeriodPaath: “Break The Silence” On Periods

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,

Narendra Modi

Honorable Prime Minister of India.

Subject: Indian Parliament Should have a discussion on Periods.

Sir,

I am writing this letter to draw your attention to the biased perception of society on periods. More than 5000 words are used worldwide for periods because there is a shame in taking its name directly. In countries like Nepal, Chaupadi traditions are still considered when women separate themselves from family during periods. 50 percent of girls in Iran and 20 percent in India believe that periods are diseases.

Mr. Prime minister you are one of the very popular leaders in the world. As a citizen of India, I want to say that you raise this issue on every local and international platform. Periods in Indian society are never openly talked about. Due to a lack of information many girls get contagious diseases, then many consider menstruation as a disease. The problem increases further due to poverty. People in poor homes do not have both the money and the convenience to buy sanitary pads. Due to this, many girls miss their studies as soon as many periods begin, If pads can be provided to girls, then they do not hesitate to go to school.

Manisha, a Delhi-based high school student, says that “if there is a blemish on the skirt during periods, the boys call us shameless and embarrass them.”  “We feel bad that the boys saw blood on our clothes. It becomes difficult for us to even go before them.”

Mr. Prime Minister, you announced in 2014 that India will be free from open defecation on the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. But not all the poor people living in Delhi have access to toilet facilities. But despite the huge progress made in this direction, there remains doubt about its bold claim of being 100% successful.

Not only the backward states of the country, but the capital New Delhi can also be called open defecation free. Laxmi, a woman who has defecated in the open in the morning near the railway track near Delhi Cant railway station, tells, “Where we live, there is no toilet. We have to go in the open.”

Apart from this, it is also very important to have toilets everywhere, including schools. For a healthy, productive and dignified life, women must get things like water, soap, toilets, and sanitary pads during periods. She spends 6-7 years of her life in periods. This is an important part of her life. Even then they are not able to get even the basic facilities.

In countries like India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal there are a lot of people who consider women less because of periods. In those five days, women are considered almost untouchable. And the other type of people are those who say that periods are a normal physical process of women, it should be seen in the same way. Viewers can understand these feelings with advertisements. Periods are not even mentioned in advertisements for sanitary pads.

A student of a college says that “many times they had to face the odd situation, but if the sanitary napkins will be found in the college itself and there will be facilities to destroy them, then it will be a big relief for them.

Despite all the efforts, it is not easy for girls to get a school education in South Asian countries. Governments in South Asian countries claim to run all the programs for the education of children. According to WHO standards, there should be a toilet for every 25 girls, but in reality, this does not happen.

Fatima lives in Barapulla, the mother of four children living in a poor colony. Fatima, who works as a domestic maid in others’ homes for a living, says, “We have been living here for many years, but despite repeated calls, no one has constructed a toilet. We are forced to defecate in the open. It is not safe either, but what to do.”

In the Indian environment, young girls or other young women, are hesitant to talk openly on their personal problems and also hesitate in issues like their cleanliness. This is the reason why women come under the influence of all such diseases, which can be prevented through hygiene.

Many of the toilets that have been constructed are not being used. If no one has a door, then someone is being used to keep things and other things. The 46-year-old Revati, a mother of two, lives in the Uttam Nagar area of Delhi. She told, “The toilet built near my house is of no use. There is another toilet where three rupees are taken. My husband and I somehow earn 7 to 10 thousand rupees a month. We are not able to give three rupees every time. We do not like going to the bushes. There are many men who stare but we are helpless. We love our honor. But where to go? “

Mr. Prime Minister Cultural barriers, old habits or lack of knowledge about hygiene are also becoming a hindrance to the use of toilets. If you are going to change the long-standing habits of the people of rural areas, then first you have to focus on changing their behavior. To achieve the goal, it has been assumed from the number of ‘toilets in homes’ that the village has become ‘open defecation free’. However, it is not like that.”

Look Forward to Hearing From you.

 

Yours Sincerely

Rohit Dhyani

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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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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