Given the nationwide lockdown situation as on 28th May 2020, it made celebrating the International Menstrual Hygiene Day almost impossible. Unlike other years, when we would organise a platform where different events would be lined up for the day across India, the year 2020 was different.
The Breaking the Silence Worldwide Foundation organises its annual bike rally ‘Men Take Lead Ride’ in Bengaluru to commemorate this important day, but this year it had to be called off, even though we kept on pinning all our hopes that the spread of the pandemic would decline, or at least halt. Till the last moment, we refrained from cancelling the event pages, hoping things would get back to normal. Only they didn’t.
Breaking the Silence Worldwide Foundation has always been guided by the World Pulse vision and programme of impacting solutions using digital technology. We conducted an online experience for viewers starting from 24th April to build up till the Menstrual Hygiene (MH) Day, including activities as mentioned below, as anything else was not feasible with the lockdown. We dedicated the MH Day 2020 celebrations to World Pulse for its work on ensuring girls and women around the world receive digital skills training and digital empowerment so they may be linked to opportunities.
1. A social media splash on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube was organised to raise awareness through poster-based messages from key stakeholders and individuals on menstrual hygiene management on varied topics such as:
2. Owing to the lockdown and pandemic, all field activities had to be suspended. Thus, we took a decision to focus on online programming. Fortunately, Breaking the Silence Worldwide has been conducting successful social media and media campaigns since 2014, so it was not a big challenge. In this period, the majority turned to webinars, Twitter chat and video-based communication.
The model of programming we employed was intended to mobilise interest, curiosity, information, involvement using social media with a long-term objective of building a cadre of MHM champions through the MHM Quiz. It was conducted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram between 24th April and 24th May, winners were announced on 28th May International Menstrual Hygiene Day, and prizes and certificates given to them.
The certificates were co-signed by Urmila Chanam, founder of Breaking the Silence Worldwide Foundation, and Sharon Mather, co-founder of Voices of Women Worldwide and VOWW TV. The MHM Quiz was available on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages of the organisation, as well as on World Pulse and LinkedIn.
The purpose of the MHM Quiz was to develop curiosity in people from all genders, and help them check their information level and take the first step in ‘breaking the culture of shame and silence’ on menstruation by bringing the conversation to public domain.
Who was being impacted by this initiative? Girls, boys, women and men on social media and those who have access to digital technology.
A winner Sivakami Muthusamy from Mumbai says,
“I work at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and I participated because menstrual hygiene management is close to my heart. Winning or losing does not matter honestly. I felt the urge to participate to generate the attention.”
Winners received special prizes, keeping in view what would interest all genders and be of utility to them. We also had to consider that markets are closed, post offices and private courier services suspended, and inter-State transportation at a standstill. A set of four mason jars with lid and straw were delivered to the doorstep of the winners via Amazon and certificates were sent through e-mail.
Male participants also got involved with ease, because Breaking the Silence programme involves their participation from the start through its Men Take Lead Ride initiative. Two school students participated: Ningombam Bijyalaxmi, a female student of Class XI Sailesh Ningthoujam, a male student of Class VIII, both from Imphal, Manipur.
A few participants also expressed the need for such educative and engaging online quiz, and other programmes that can engage people from all genders, and not just women.
3. We also launched our website for Breaking The Silence Worldwide Foundation on International Menstrual Hygiene Day, and hopefully, it will serve to enhance the visibility of our programmes and efforts.
The website has been developed by Binapani Ningombam, a software professional based in New Delhi, who has made a voluntary contribution of paying for the domain name annually. We are indebted to her contribution. Ningombam serves the mission as the Head of Communications of Breaking the Silence Campaign Worldwide Foundation and is part of the core team of the organisation.
4. On the same day, we also announced our next national-level competition, which will begin on 1st July and go on till 1st October, where we will give 10 prizes to winners and certificates to all participants. The MH Day 2020 online celebrations were linked to the global MH Day observations anchored by WASH United, MH Day Secretariat, Menstrual Health Worldwide and other consortiums.
The theme for MH Day 2020 globally was #ItsTimeForAction. Voices of Women Worldwide, VOWW TV, World Pulse, Radio Active CR 90.4 MHz, India Bull Riders (IBR), IRSP Pakistan and the core team of ‘Men Take Lead Ride’ extended full support to the execution of the MH Day 2020 online programme.
Featured Image credit: Screengrab/Youtube/Urmila Chanam