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Sound Policies That Are Helping Young Children Combat Menstrual Stigma

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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.

When it comes to menstrual health management, the two missing As are: Access and Awareness. Lack of access to sanitary pads and awareness around menstrual hygiene is the major roadblock to ensure menstrual health management.

My experience of working with the children and adolescents of Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya in Wazirpur during my Masters helped me to understand the importance of robust implementation of policies and programmes and they cab help to tackle the of problems of accessibility and availability of sanitary pads.

In the year 2018, I got an opportunity to work with J.J. colony of Wazirpur community. A one-day session was organized on menstruation. The aim was to understand the prevailing silence around periods and pertaining issues. Therefore, a much-acclaimed documentary “Period. End of the Sentence” was screened to initiate the discussion. The session turned out to be a learning experience for me. I realized the importance of awareness and accessibility of pads in school and its impact on the mothers.

Teachers Were The First Source Of Information

According to a document “Normalizing Menstruation“, the mothers are the primary source of information around menstruation but, for the young girls of Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, it’s their class teacher who introduced them to menstruation. The teacher helped them to understand that it’s a normal biological cycle, and therefore, it should not discourage them. The classroom sessions enabled them to understand the importance of menstrual hygiene. It was interesting to realize the bunch of young children I was interacting with had not even got their periods yet and were well aware of menstruation and its implication.

On the other hand, the mothers of young children clearly showed a sign of discomfort and took a lot more time to open up. They did relate to the documentary and accepted the existence of taboos, myths and stigma. Further, the source of information around periods for the mother of the young adolescents was either their mother, aunt or elder sister.

Availability Of Sanitary Pads

Interestingly, these children used to get a sanitary pad irrespective of the fact whether they have attained puberty or not. The availability of free sanitary pads helped few girls to use pads over clothes. Also, they used to give it to their mother. Interestingly, a mother shared her experience of using the sanitary pads for the first time.

Further, they did not have to ask their husbands to get them sanitary pads. Now they are readily available to them. The easy access of sanitary pad without any embarrassment helps women to have less worrisome periods. They can easily get sanitary pads without much hesitation. I believe the proper supply chain of low cost or free sanitary napkins and adequate implementation of policies of distribution of sanitary pads through schools, Anganwadi and government-run hospitals can help them to get sanitary pads.

Further, for children and women living in slums of Wazirpur availability of sanitary pads from school helped them to overcome the issue of itchiness and rashes. Earlier, the children used to use clothes instead of pads. The congested jhuggis and slums prove to be challenging to dry up clothes under the sun.

The congestion and narrow lanes of jhuggi make it difficult to wash it and dry the clothes under the sun. One of the mothers shared the woes of using clothes. She used to get rashes because of wearing clothes for long hours and using wet clothes. Moreover, to avoid consulting a doctor, they preferred using powder.

Policies And Programme

The young adolescents studying in the government schools of Delhi are provided with free sanitary pads through the Department of Education. The teachers were also imparted with training and awareness programmes around menstruation to help them disseminate the awareness around menstruation to adolescents. The awareness programme includes the role of proper diet, use of sanitary napkins and the part of existing Anganwadi centres.

The free sanitary pads are for the age group of 11 onwards. The programme does not discriminate between menstruating children and not menstruating children. These children were given sanitary pads during the last working days of each month. This programme is a massive step in menstrual health management. It is essential to spread awareness around menstruation even before the children hit puberty. It allows children to be prepared before they hit puberty and is a source of empowerment.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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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