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The Period Project: Why Teachers Need To Be At The Forefront To Talk About MHM

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.

While the world is dealing with COVID -19, it’s the marginalised people who have been affected the most. COVID-19 has led to a decrease in access to sexual and reproductive health services, and the safety of women and girls is at risk with a rise in domestic violence, sexual abuse cases.

With the extension of the lockdown, it is harder to provide support and shelter to women desperately in need of it. To raise awareness around sexual reproductive health and menstrual hygiene, the theme for 28 May MHM Day 2020 was ‘Periods in Pandemics’. The theme focused on raising awareness about menstrual hygiene and reproductive health rights during the pandemic, which affects a woman’s physical and mental health.

As Youth Ki Awaaz Action Network Fellow, I have been trying my best in my small capacities as a youth worker to create awareness about menstrual hygiene, especially in the time of the pandemic. I have also been working to create access to information regarding sexual reproductive health services.

“Training of the Trainer” workshop of Zilla Parishad Teachers as menstrual hygiene management facilitators conducted by Pravin Nikam

Journey As A Youth Ki Awaaz Action Network Fellow

For me, the journey as a Youth Ki Awaaz Action Network Fellow started in January 2020 when I was selected to be a part of the Action Network and was invited to join a two-day workshop in Jaipur on 25th – 26th Jan 2020. The workshop allowed me to meet and network with young MHM changemakers who came from across the country. It also gave me an opportunity to meet Mr Anshul Tiwari, the founder of Youth Ki Awaaz, someone whom I always admired for changing the socio-political discourse with his impact journalism at Youth Ki Awaaz.

In this workshop, we were trained by domain experts and YKA Team on how to build a powerful social media campaign, its design and strategy. Social media skills, storytelling skills and how to influence the media and decision-makers to demand action by mobilising people through your social media-driven campaign were also a part of the workshop.

YKA Action Network Fellows Leveraging Social Media To Create Social Change

Social Media has been an impact platform when it comes to movements on menstrual hygiene and reproductive health in India. Millions of menstruators are still denied the right to manage their periods in a dignified and healthy way. Spot! On suggests that nearly 23 million girls drop out of school annually due to lack of proper menstrual hygiene management facilities. Gender inequality, discriminatory social norms, cultural taboos, poverty and lack of essential sanitation services are still prevalent in our community.

As an Action Network Fellow, we were trained on how can we improve our implementation strategies when it comes to demanding better menstrual health and hygiene which is integral to empowering menstruating people and creating a safe and gender-just space. The workshop helped me understand that our voice can be amplified to change the broader public narrative on menstrual health and demand policy action by designing powerful social media campaigns.

Enabling Stakeholders As MHM Facilitators

I founded ROSHNI Foundation, a non-profit organisation, focused on enabling adolescents, youths, men, women and transgender people on issues around menstrual hygiene, sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Here I am working as an MHM facilitator with teachers and educators to train them as facilitators on menstrual hygiene and gender. I am of the firm opinion that teachers, educators, ASHA workers, anganwadi sevikas play an essential role in disseminating knowledge among adolescents about menstrual hygiene.

And if we do capacity building training of trainer (ToT) workshops for teachers and educators to help them understand menstrual hygiene management and train them as facilitators, then this will inevitably create impact.

This experience of mine helped me to come up with my detailed campaign pitch during Action Network Fellowship which led to the foundation for the Period Project – in which the ask is “to push for greater implementation of Training of the Trainers Workshop for the Teachers from Higher Secondary School of Zilla Parishad on Menstrual Hygiene Management as per the guidelines of the Swachh Bharat by Government of India notification dated 02 October 2014 and Government of Maharashtra notification on 02 August 2017.

The Period Project: Way Ahead

A school is a place where behaviours are shaped, skills are developed, and correct information should be provided. Keeping this in mind, we have pushed for greater implementation of ToT workshops at three levels which include:

Government Level: Activities include meeting with zilla parishad CEO and President, meeting with principals and teachers, conducting baseline survey, meeting with BEOs, BRCs, CRCs, block-level Panchayat officials, frontline staff from Health and Women and Child Development department and others. We aim to help them understand best practices and policies when it comes to training of teachers as MHM facilitators.

Institution Level: We are working on training teachers (at least one teacher per zilla parishad school), so they can further work in their community to provide psychosocial support to adolescent girls, and provide regular hygiene classes in every school in the community. After ToTs, the responsibility for organising these MHM classes will lie with the headteacher or the local teacher. The purpose of these sessions is that the girls receive accurate knowledge from their teachers on MHM. They will feel supported in school, should be able to manage their menstruation without fear of shame and embarrassment, can speak freely about it to their peers and teachers. We further aim to conduct sessions with educators, ASHA workers and anganwadi sevikas.

Community level: We are hopeful that the campaign will make people care about the importance of menstrual hygiene and help them understand the change they could propagate. We are reaching out to community networks of self-help groups, youth clubs, and senior citizen groups via short videos, blog posts and short messages.

For me, in an individual capacity as a lawyer and human rights defender, the campaign has given great opportunity to catalyse action for gender equality and the health, rights, and well-being of girls and women.

Pravin Nikam at Youth Ki Awaaz Action Network workshop

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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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