This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Rigya. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

All I Wanted Was For Someone To Say My Pain Was Valid

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.

When I was 17, I went through a particularly bad bout of acne that prompted me, a doctor-fearing-hospitals-give-me-palpitations-introverted teenager, to take the initiative to visit a dermatologist. The prescription was something some of you will be familiar with; a two-pronged attack on my acne through benzoyl peroxide and clindamycin. And all was well!

Until it wasn’t and as a 19-year-old, there was a resurgence. This time I was put on the holy grail of beauty medication – retinoids (Vitamin A or related to it, more commonly known as adapalene, tretinoin). Diligently following my doc’s sparse instructions, I obviously over-exfoliated in a week. There was no acne but my face was red with dry painful patches. Anyone who pays a little attention to their skin will know where I went wrong.

Moisturise. I didn’t moisturise at all! My doctor didn’t give me any specific instructions to moisturise and I didn’t know any better. After all, I had oily skin and oily skin means no moisturising. A decade later I am wiser. I know that I have sensitive skin which can’t bear retinoids on bare skin without moisturising. No doctor told me this, they should have. But this isn’t about my skincare routine. This is about the Indian health care system.

Where Are The Doctors?

Representational Image

Did you know that doctors spend an average of barely two minutes with their patient on consultation? Coupled with a scarcity of doctors as “India has a little over one million modern medicine (allopathy) doctors to treat its population of 1.3 billion people. Of these, only around 10% work in the public health sector.” This statistic also involves quacks- people who haven’t been trained to be doctors.

The reality is that doctors just don’t have the time! They are overworked, and just not enough people have been trained to look after such a large population. When my dermatologist had to go through hundreds of patients every day, it is understandable why he could only prescribe medication without going into details about an extensive skincare regime. It is not his fault, it is our system. This is evident as our public healthcare systems right now are quavering under a pandemic.

When it comes to certain marginalised genders, their issues become are not only seen through a biomedical lens, but from a gendered lens as well. You know how a woman’s pain is taken less seriously? A woman’s pain is treated differently, if at all, by healthcare professionals; “Until about a decade ago, many clinical research studies excluded women, resulting in a lack of information about gender differences in disease prevalence, progression, and response to treatment.

A woman’s pain therefore becomes inconsequential, overlooked, invisibilized because we just don’t have an understanding of it. Women bear the brunt of it as our suffering becomes mythical, imaginary or a call for attention.

How Does It All Connect To Menstrual Hygiene Management?

In 2016, on a fine Wednesday morning, I had a crucial presentation because of which I spent two sleepless days sitting in a crooked position. When it was time for me to present, my spine decided it had enough of my abuse and just won’t become upright. Somehow, I wormed my way through it. But my body wasn’t done with me. My periods hit. Then came the pain, and without hyperbole, it was the second most painful experience of my life.

First was also related to period pains. To compare, I have poured boiling water over my stomach and that still qualifies as third most painful moment of my life. I was quivering in my bed, hardly able to get out. I had some NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) on hand. They helped but not much.

Somehow, I did end up coasting through those days with aforementioned over the counter NSAIDs but how I wished my in-house University doctor had listened to me and tried to understand the horrifying condition I was in. Hot water bags, chocolates and tea weren’t cutting it, nor was I in the mood to listen to ‘ghar-ke-nuskhe’ from a doctor. As an aside, I haven’t been to that doc since.

Woman holding her stomach in pain
Representational Image.

The back ache coupled with period pain was debilitating enough, the added stress of the doctor’s disbelief towards my story infuriated me further. This isn’t just my case.

In 2015, Amba Azaad came up with a crowdsourced list of gynaecologists who would offer their services without judgement and be somewhat sex-affirming and positive. Why was there even a need? Because sometimes, we just need someone to believe us as we tell it and validate our feelings.

Menstruation is an intensely subjective experience. There are as many narratives as there are menstruators. There is already an air of silence around menstruation, ignoring, disbelieving someone who chooses to speak out should not be an option. In that moment when I was in pain, all I wanted was for someone to understand what I was going through, I think it would have made my experience much less harrowing.

You must be to comment.

More from Rigya

Similar Posts

By heena singhal

By Manaswini Panigrahi

By Syama Sasidharan

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below