#Period Paath: The forbidden word, PERIOD!

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To,

Alo Libang

Minister of Health & Family Welfare

Government of Arunachal Pradesh

Respected sir,

My name is Takam Kasumi, a fellow citizen of Arunachal Pradesh. In this letter, I would like to raise the difficulty that every girl and women has to undergo every month, “Period”. Within the rural region of Arunachal Pradesh, the majority of the girls from the poor scheduled tribal families are not being sent to school. Even if they are sent to school, the educational system is so poor, with the lack of facilities and teachers. So this is where the problem lies.

Menstrual hygiene is a major issue that every girl and women ought to practice in her life. However, there’s an absence of awareness concerning menstruation, hygiene practices during the physical and psychological changes associated with puberty in Arunachal Pradesh.

In my family, the majority of women use sanitary napkin but a good percentage still uses a cloth to soak menstrual flow. When I asked my aunts the reason for not using sanitary napkins, the explanation were: the price of sanitary napkins is incredibly high whereas only one napkin can be used once, and there are no provisions for disposal of sanitary napkins, especially in the public places.

So, sir I firmly believe that empowering a successive generation to view PERIODS as a natural physical cycle is significant for building a society that is more equitable, rather a taboo. Young girls should be taught regarding menstruation, starting from elementary school. The pain, stress, mood swings and hormones ought to be explained to them.

Growing up, I recall my mother would stealthily hide her box of pads. I would wonder what was that? But, in the fear of getting scold, never had the courage to ask about it. I would also recall at my high school time our biology teacher splitting boys and girls from our class to teach about that one chapter which my biology teacher felt embarrassed for.

I was never been taught about menstruation either at my home or in school properly. And the next thing I knew I was having my first period which I kept a secret from my mother for a day. Why? The answer is obvious I was awkward and shy to walk up to my mother to talk about it. I was only 11 years old, I didn’t know what was going on with my body.

All I knew was there was blood, and that I felt terrified. So, I tore off my face towel and wrapped them around my underwear like gauze. During high school, I was advised to slip a pad up my sleeves when going to the toilet and conditioned to speak in a hushed tone when asking friends if they had a spare pad.

I suppose it was all due to the lack of knowledge. In India, only 1 in every 2 girls has menstrual knowledge before their first period.

Therefore, sir, I request you to take an initiative to empower and educate the young girls to come out of taboos, guiding them on the use of sanitary products, creating facilities for disposal of sanitary napkins and making sanitary napkins available at affordable prices which will help in improving menstrual hygiene. I understand the use of sanitary napkins is not sufficient to ensure menstrual hygiene.

Therefore, awareness among women about the hygienic use of sanitary napkins needs to be addressed. Menstruation has to be a normal conversational subject, regardless of any gender in society. Our purpose should be to get people of Arunachal speak about this matter without any shyness while breaking the silence.

Thanking You,

Takam Kasumi

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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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