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Bleed Eco: Towards Hygienic Menstruation In Educational Institutions Across India

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.

The Bleed Eco Project is a campaign that has been launched, in association with the Youth Ki Awaaz Action Network on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM).

Here, we aim at spreading awareness about inclusive, sustainable, economic and eco-friendly menstruation for all. Menstruation, unlike popular belief, is not a gendered physical activity. For trans-men and gender non-binary folks, it tends to be a process as psychologically difficult as the bodily pain that accompanies the same. In recent years, several organizations have brought up the topic of menstrual health and successfully freed it from the social stigma that initially surrounded it.

However, the menstruation that comes to us through mainstream media is neatly bowtie-wrapped in pretty pink packages, a colour generally associated with the female sex, and it is considered to be a women’s health issue.

Representational image.

In reality, it is a lot more and here, at Bleed Eco, we want to freely engage in the topic of menstruation, the many myths popularly associated with it, the varying anatomies of sanitary hygiene and discuss eco-friendly ways of menstruation. It is an effort at not only opening up the broad spectrum of the menstruating population to the society but also to inform, educate and help them, as well as others, to learn about the various ways of bleeding safely and responsibly.

Most educational institutions that we have come across lack proper sanitation and fundamental menstruation friendly facilities. In a series of testimonials that we have been collecting from Jadavpur University, Kolkata, the students have opened up about the appalling conditions of the many washrooms across the campus. The few common complaints against them that have surfaced are as follows: malfunctioning taps, flushes and faucets, unclean dustbins, the absence of a sanitary pad vending machine and broken locks on bathroom stalls, among many.

Most of the students have also confessed to having contracted urinary tract disorders (UTIs) and expressed their dwindling desire to be on the campus and attend classes on days they are menstruating just because of the aforementioned unhygienic conditions of the washrooms and a general lack of availability of sanitary napkins in the campus. We, at Bleed Eco, are wishful of turning around the experience of these menstruators.

Menstruation, unlike popular belief, is not a gendered physical activity/ Representational image.

How Do We Wish To Bring About The Change?

Below, we are listing a number of things that we wish to facilitate the students with. These include:

  • Functional taps with clean running water for students to be able to wash their hands after using the toilets.
  • Working cisterns and flushes as un-flushed toilets lead to increased susceptibility to conditions such as UTIs, rashes, bacterial build-up and skin conditions.
  • Proper waste disposal system with dustbins in every stall for students to be able to dispose of used sanitary products and ensure proper waste management so that sanitary products are not disposed of in open spaces.
  • Soap dispensers and bidet sprays to maintain hygiene and to be able to clean menstrual cups and, at the very least, one’s private parts after using the toilet.
  • Locks on the washrooms stalls and hooks to keep your belongings to ensure privacy and to be able to store bags to access sanitary hygiene products as and when required.
  • Sanitary vending machines for situations in which students do not have access to sanitary pads or other menstrual hygiene products but urgently need them.
  • Routine maintenance and deep cleaning of the washrooms to ensure sanitation and cleanliness and to prevent the spread of diseases.
  • Accessible and disability-friendly washrooms with ramps, wheelchair-height toilets and basins, grab bars and handles, Braille maps in corridors to help locate washrooms easily.

The Bleed Eco Project believes that access to proper sanitation is a basic human right. Our demands are addressed to the Vice-Chancellors of several prominent universities in Kolkata, especially Jadavpur University where we aim at heralding the project, and the Ministry of Health and Education to take action on the atrocious conditions of the washrooms in educational institutions which have proved to be a menace for menstruating and as well as disabled students.

You could help up by signing our petition to help us strive forward towards our goal – Bleed Safe, Bleed Eco!

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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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