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Do You Work In A Period Positive Workplace? Why ‘Resting Up’ Is A Luxury

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This post is a part of Periodपाठ, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with WSSCC to highlight the need for better menstrual hygiene management in India. Click here to find out more.

What Does Menstruation Have To Do With Age?

Roseanne Barr’s remark on how she doesn’t mind Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) because she can be herself reminded me of my own privilege to mostly be able to do the same. My ability to normalise my period and associated symptoms are what makes me realise my privilege.

As someone prone to cramps and mood swings, I have never really had to apologise for not behaving in an ‘acceptable manner’. Being a student still, the ability to take an off when I feel like it comes more as a personal choice than any other. In the same reality exists my mother going through the same symptoms on a higher level, yet choosing to power through irrespective of the symptoms because she cannot avoid her work and deadlines will always trump cramps.

Representational image. Lack of sensitivity around the concept of menstruation is yet another burden on those who bleed.

Then there’s our domestic help who chose to come to work (pre-COVID) despite the same symptoms because the lunch break at her employer’s house is a luxury she is never afforded in her own home. This being the result of her family’s mindset where women and rest don’t go along.

A Youth ki Awaaz survey found that a higher percentage of younger people are affected by period-related issues in comparison to older women. In the case of period cramps, 70% of younger women cited it as a reason for hindered productivity, in comparison to 43% of older women.

When I first read this, the first question that came to my mind was ‘What if most younger ones can afford to acknowledge these effects than their older counterparts?

Productivity And Periods

Lack of sensitivity around the concept of menstruation is yet another burden on those who bleed. The bliss afforded by the lack of acknowledgement of periods is a gross disadvantage, the impact of which menstruating individuals face.

The YKA study also found that 66.3% of menstruators suffered from period cramps, followed by tiredness and fatigue by 50.9 %. This means that physical symptoms tend to have the most effect on productivity, the mere numbers are reason enough to increase awareness.

Having the right to push pause without feeling guilty about it should not be dictated by social norms of what counts as work and what does not.

Representational image. If we truly want to focus on ending period poverty and stigma, access to proper, informed and unbiased medical aid is of the absolute essence.

While menstruation/period leave is a great step in acknowledging the impact menstruation has on women, there have been plenty of problems that plague the concept. Whether it’s the fear that this will be used as a negative bias while hiring women, like the maternity leave, has been or the fact that it will increase the difference in treatment meted out in the workplace.

The fact that the concept is limited to formal workspaces is another feature that makes it more of an idealistic policy than an ideal one. A daily wage labourer would choose to work through the pain than be denied a day’s wage. Someone like my own domestic help would choose to come to work as well solely to be afforded an actual break for a mere hour than none at her home.

There is a need to make the narrative more humane and let people catch a break without having to justify all the time, irrespective of whether it is in work or home environment. Menstruation is a public health phenomenon and treating it as such would go a long way in contributing to a community better equipped physically, emotionally and mentally.

Menstruation Beyond Bleeding

Representational image. Having the right to push pause without feeling guilty about it should not be dictated by social norms of what counts as work and what does not.

Owing to the still patriarchal mindset of society, the conversation around menstruation for the longest time was limited to the temporary impurity of being a woman solely because we bleed for a couple of days.

The recent wave of period awareness primarily focuses on normalising and at times, even glorifying the same yet singular bleeding aspect.

This is often at the expense of forgetting that it is a bodily function with so many physical, mental, and emotional symptoms.

There is still a considerable gap in the conversation when it comes to accepting that sometimes going through menstruation is plain ugly, from rashes to acne and to irregular flow. The process involves setbacks which arrive before the bleeding part and stay back even when said blood is gone.

The concept of menstruation is steeped with so much social stigma that we forget that so many of these symptoms don’t have to be as bad as they are if proper medical accessibility is ensured. If we truly want to focus on ending period poverty and stigma, access to proper, informed, and unbiased medical aid is of the absolute essence.

Given that almost 90.2% respondents of the YKA study replied in affirmative when asked if they experience any health effects due to menstruation, it is high time we open up the conversation to include these effects the good, the bad and the ugly.

Note: You can access the survey conducted by YKA and WSSCC here.

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  1. Deepika Kanika

    I so so agree

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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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