#MyPeriodStory: The Red War

Editor’s Note: This post is an entry for the #MyPeriodStory writing contest, a unique opportunity for you to write a letter and stand a chance of winning Amazon vouchers worth ₹2,500! The contest is organised by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with WSSCC. Find out more here and submit your entry!

The red stains at the walls never bothered me so much until a red stain appeared on my white school skirt. I was used to the concept of “daag acche hain” but my blood stained skirt blew away my mind. I knew about menstruation vaguely but I didn’t know till then how it actually happens. I was so unprepared to see blood stains all over my underwear and my school skirt.

It was when I was in the sixth standard that I started menstruating. After the last period when I stood up to leave the class a friend of mine told me about the stain in my skirt. I turned to look at it and thought it to be red paint only to realise after a few minutes that it was something else. My pants felt heavier, my body temperature felt much higher than usual, my own body part disgusted me.

There was a hush hush sound among my female friends asking me to keep calm.
My stomach ached severely and I didn’t understand what should I do with my stained skirt. A friend who had got her periods earlier came to my rescue helped me with a sanitary napkin.

I rushed to the washroom with my friends. They literally had formed a human barrier to hide my stain from others. I was instructed to put the napkin. The entire process of using a pad, felt very complicated then. Somehow I succeeded and it felt no less than a victory in a battle.

I thought that my life has been disrupted with leakage everywhere. The stains in the skirt had to be hidden because our society bothers more about the stains on female clothes than on that of the walls. My artistic brain helped me to hide my stained skirt and I stapled that portion of the skirt into a fold and used safety pins too.

On my way back home I kept thinking about how should I tell this at home. I reached home and told my mother about it in my high pitch voice and she immediately asked me to slow down. I didn’t know till then that this biological process is an open secret. Speaking of it in public is not appreciated.

She asked me whether I had used a napkin or not which followed by a lot of biological and illogical statements. I remember she told me not to enter the temple and touch anything related to God because I wasn’t supposed to.

On one hand I had to deal with the bone breaking stomach cramps and on the other with such stressful statements. My first period encounter was no less than a war in my body. Although everytime it happens it feels like it’s for the first time.

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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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