#PeriodPaath: Menstruation vs. Mental Health

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: Gram Pradhan, Purkal, Jaspur, and Kharani Panchayat 

Dear Mr. Juyal,

The importance of promoting a positive outlook and education on the topic of menstruation cannot be overstated. Every person in a community is either directly or indirectly impacted by the process of menstruation. As an experienced healthcare professional, I see 3 major areas for improving the attitudes surrounding menstruation as well as supporting the health needs related to menstruation: (1) teaching both boys and girls about the topic of menstruation; (2) promoting mental health interventions as youth begin to experience these intense physiological and mental changes in their bodies, and (3) providing low cost, high impact solutions to supporting hygienic practices during menstruation. Each of these areas addresses an important aspect of the experience of menstruation for girls and women. 

Teaching both boys and girls about the process of menstruation is critical to destigmatizing conversations around menstruation and reducing the shame that girls often experience when they get their periods. This process begins with adolescent health education. In school, when boys and girls are first introduced to reproductive anatomy and the biological processes associated with these parts of the body, it is often presented quickly and discreetly without proper discussion about the actual functions of these organs and sometimes without the medically correct terminology being used to identify each body part. Other times, students are instructed to read the chapter quietly themselves without a class discussion about the content.  Hesitance to discuss these topics creates the impression that these functions of the body are in some way “bad” or abnormal, and thus sends the message to the students that they should not view these concepts as a natural part of life. 

Additionally, the mental health of children as they experience the many changes associated with adolescence is an extremely important part of a child’s overall wellness. This is especially true for girls who are first experiencing menstruation and often feel shy or embarrassed to talk about any discomfort or problems they may be having. If girls experience embarrassment or even bullying as a result of their period, they will surely face negative impacts to their mental and emotional health. These negative impacts can persist beyond a child’s time in school and continue to affect them in their adult lives as well.  Promoting positive mental health in a school environment can be achieved in a variety of different ways: activities such as laughter yoga, motivational thought sessions, meditation, and different diversional therapies can provide students a space to take care of their mental health and feel supported when they are experiencing emotional or mental difficulties. 

Lastly, there are many low-cost, high impact solutions to the health challenges experienced by girls during their periods. For example, many girls do not always have consistent access to sanitary pads during their periods. Sanitary pads are much preferred to using cloth or other materials during menstruation, and can make a major difference in the comfort, cleanliness, and confidence of girls and women during menstruation. In addition to schools being able to provide sanitary pads, it is also beneficial to have incinerators placed around school campuses so that girls and women have a hygienic place to dispose of sanitary pads. 

Ultimately, all of these solutions share the same goal: to empower girls with the freedom to live their lives and encourage them and the members of their communities not to stigmatize or feel shame about their periods, but to be proud and celebrate their bodies.

Sincerely, 

Sonam, Graduate Nurse

Purkal Youth Development Society Learning Academy

Similar Posts

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below