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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.

In a country like India, where the patriarchy is deeply ingrained into the minds of people across all socioeconomic backgrounds, cultural stigmas and taboos are built around things that tend to make men uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, menstruation (and as a result, menstrual health management) falls under this broad category. Research suggests that most men lack basic knowledge, not just surrounding menstruation but also reproductive health.

I wanted to know what men understood about menstruation. Even though it is a commonly talked about topic with a ton of research surrounding it, I realised that I had never really had a conversation about menstruation with any of the men I knew. So I decided to do some research of my own. Talking to my few male friends just didn’t cut it, I needed a larger group. So I went to the only place where I would find a large population of men ready to talk to and about women. I downloaded Tinder.

I spoke to 20 random strangers on the dating app to understand what they knew about the issue. Almost all the boys were, surprisingly, more than willing to answer my questions. One of the most significant issues surrounding menstruation is lack of knowledge. So I decided to keep the questions simple. I asked the boys four basic questions to see where they stood.

1. Do You Know What Periods Are?

Class 8th NCERT textbook defines menstruation as “…If fertilisation does not occur, the released egg and the thickened lining of the uterus along with its blood vessels are shed off. This causes bleeding in women which is called menstruation.

I started with this question for two simple reasons. Almost all of the guys I spoke to came from urban upper-middle-class households. They had access to the internet and schooling, so I expected them to know the answer to this question already.

Asking a question this simple also helped me understand the extent to which these guys understood what I was talking about (and helped me vet out the ones who were googling on the side). The boys were all aware of what periods were and how they affected women. Although some were a little vague about how much they knew, they understood that it was something that happened to women every month and that most women required a bit more patience and emotional support during the time.

2. Do You Know Why They Happen?

This was where things started to get tricky. Of the 20 boys I interviewed, five admitted to not knowing why periods occurred. Seven of them gave me the textbook definition I mentioned in the previous question (which leads me to believe they either googled it or just recalled what they learnt in school verbatim).

Only eight seemed to understand the process and why it occurred. Since this part of the necessary information taught in school, one can only assume that young boys weren’t interested or made to understand that this is essential knowledge that they must keep in mind.

When asked one of them why he didn’t know something that is common knowledge to at least half the world’s population, he, “I can’t speak for anyone, but I think most boys have never even had the birds and the bees conversation with their parents forget about periods.

3. Do You Know What Pads Are?

For the most part, all the guys knew what pads were. Not all of them knew what they were used for, but they knew the different brands and what they looked like. Advertisements seem to have played a significant role in this understanding.

Only one of the boys had a proper sexuality education class in school where he was taught about pads, tampons and menstrual cups. The others learnt about it from friends and the internet. Around half of the boys knew what tampons were and even less understood about menstrual cups.

According to one of the boys, his school teachers often glossed over parts relating to sexual health and reproduction as the entire class would start snickering every time it was brought up. Knowledge around sanitary products is essential and even life saving for some women. Glossing over or completely avoiding the topic, only serves to endanger the lives of young girls who don’t know how to deal with their periods.

4. How And When Did You First Learn About It?

Surprisingly, most of the information they got on periods wasn’t from their biology textbooks but friends and family. When family members weren’t responsive to their question, they turned to the internet. “I noticed that my mom used to stay out of the kitchen for a couple of days every once in a while. When I asked her why she did that she told me that most women get sick for a few days every month. I didn’t find that answer satisfactory so I decided to google it” said of the boys.

Another one of the boys noticed his mother buying Sanitary pads for his sister and decided to ask his friends (older boys) when she didn’t give him a clear answer.

The problem with not educating young boys around menstruation is that they are forced to go the internet to seek answers. While the internet is a vast repository of knowledge, it is also filled with misinformation and dubious sources. Young teenage boys will not be able to gather the correct information and may pass on this misinformation to others.

It’s not my fault! Blame the Schools!” was something I heard several times from the different boys I spoke to. They’re right! It is not the fault of young boys that the education system has failed to give them a detailed and comprehensive look at basic human functions.

A research program conducted by WaterAid and Vatsalya in Uttar Pradesh aimed to educate and sensitise husbands and men about period-related issues. Focus groups led with the men assessed that the perception of men towards menstruation had changed after counselling. Case studies showed a more substantial engagement between men and women as well as young boys and girls.

People were better aware of their rights and responsibilities and worked together to reduce gender inequalities and exclusionism. Sensitising non-menstruators to menstruation opened up conversations and even encouraged household budgeting for sanitary napkins. If this much change is possible by educating older men for a few months, imagine the difference that would come about if young boys are taught about it in school!

Education is the first step towards starting a conversation. Without fostering a healthy culture of speaking about such issues, we cannot build an equal society for future generations.

The author is a part of the current batch of the #PeriodParGyan Writer’s Training Program

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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