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Destigmatising Menstruation: Why I Didn’t Tell My Mom About My First Period

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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.

Us women face various natural processes throughout our life, such as menstruation, puberty, childbirth and many more. But puberty and menstrual cycles are the most crucial periods of our lives due to various myths and lack of awareness that exist in our Indian society. Sometimes, we also end up neglecting psychosomatic effects.

It is not easy to adopt and accept all the changes that our bodies go through during our adolescence. Here, I would like to share my own experience when I entered this phase. I was scared about and uncomfortable with the new changes that were happening inside me. It was quite a disturbing period; I was not aware that I’d have to face this part of growing up in my life. As my mom never told me about these changes during puberty in advance, it became a very embarrassing situation for me.

When I experienced my first menstrual cycle, I didn’t tell my mom due to my hesitation. Though I shared this with my elder sister, she did not understand my anguish, and told my mom. My mom then made everything as easy as it was possible, and I felt comfortable. But I realised after a time that we need to be made aware of menstruation before we reach puberty and provide a very supporting and healthy environment when we reach this stage.

However, in present times, we truly need to spread awareness and bring this issue to the forefront, so that people who are not able to understand the basic, yet essential, information regarding periods and other related issues can get the information and be well-equipped. Various health problems due to lack of hygiene have emerged because of making menstruation a social taboo. Some very common disorders can be seen among females, which are mentioned below.

When I experienced my first menstrual cycle, I didn’t tell my mom due to my hesitation. Though I shared this with my elder sister, she did not understand my anguish, and told my mom.
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding: This kind of bleeding is faced by almost a fifth of all menstruating women. Because of heavy flow, they are not able to complete even daily chores. The reason for this problem is often hormonal imbalance.
  • Amenorrhea: This issue happens in the endocrine system, which regulates hormones. Sometimes, underweight females also experience this health problem.
  • Dysmenorrhea: Pain during periods is very common, but when it becomes unbearable, it is called dysmenorrhea, which is caused by uterine contractions.
  • Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS): In this syndrome, women suffer mentally as well as physically. Over 40% women are a victim to this problem.
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD): Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is the extreme condition of PMS. Its symptoms include mood swings and irritability.

I am just wrapping up my experience with some suggestions for governments, as well as parents and school authorities.

What Parents Can Do When Their Child Menstruates

Being a parent of a teen, one needs to be aware of every minute detail regarding their child’s menstruation cycle. First of all, we should not treat girls as pariahs during periods. We must realise that this virtue is what enables women to bring a new life on Earth. They must be cared for with a lot of affection by every member of the family.

  • You must be updated yourselves with the scientific knowledge of this natural process by reading and watching about this topic.
  • Be open and courteous to your daughter so that she can share all her experiences without any hesitation.
  • Train her to use absorbent in the form of tampon, menstruation cup and pads.
  • Give them some medication or other solutions like a hot drink to make them feel at ease.

What Schools Can Do For Menstruating Girls

Different menstrual hygiene products used widely
Parents must train their daughters to use absorbent in the form of tampon, menstruation cup and pads. Representative image.
  • It is appreciable if sanitary napkins are provided in schools to keep infection at bay. Free distribution of pads in schools is a praiseworthy step towards girls’ health and hygiene.
  • Teachers must be cooperative and kind towards understand the situation of girls when they’re menstruating. Special training sessions should be organised and teachers must regularly provide counselling to them.
  • One period of half an hour can be added as physical education for girls and boys, in which they must be educated via counselling session. Boys must also understand the problem of their classmates and friends, and help them feel comfortable during this new phase of their life.
  • Good quality disposal bins must be maintained in school premises, and most importantly, disposal of all absorbents in an environment-friendly manner must be practiced, such as burying them deep or using them in compositing.

What Governments Can Do For Menstruators

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has introduced a scheme for promoting menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls in rural areas in the age group of 10-19 years.

The major objectives of the scheme are:

  • To increase awareness among adolescent girls on menstrual hygiene
  • To increase access to and use of high-quality sanitary napkins to adolescent girls in rural areas
  • To ensure safe disposal of sanitary napkins in an environment-friendly manner.

In order to fulfil these objectives, governments can take the following steps:

  • The Government must initiate awareness programmes on the ground level so young girls can understand this natural process in a very light and bright way.
  • They need to provide financial support to enhance all these policies on menstruating in all organisations.
  • Implementation of all these policies can take speed only when a bench of authorities monitors the progress of all rules.
  • A separate committee must be established to meet deadlines on policy implementation, and share and listen to the concerns of all organisations, making access of materials such as disposal bins, good quality sanitary pads and counselling session available.
  • Emphasis on awareness of issues around menstruation should be given in rural areas, where many girls don’t go to schools. Governments must reach out to them and provide them with basic care during their menstrual cycle.

All these recommendation and suggestions can play a vital role in facing all challenges that are faced by menstruating girls, and their life can transform into an enjoyable ride.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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
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Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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