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

“Menstruating At Work Is Considered A Sign Of Weakness And Shame”

More from nehamanu.yka

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 stepped into the corporate world, I was told that corporate life is less dependent on degrees and more on ‘learning on the job’. After spending more than a decade in the corporate world, I echo the same thoughts. However, I also understood that it is not all about only ‘learning’ but also ‘bleeding on the job’.

Bleeding At The Workplace

I was once attending a corporate training, and the coach was a young lady wearing high heels and a beautiful knee length well-fitted yellow dress. She was one of the most sought after trainers with vast experience and fantastic coaching skills. During the training, she was going through a PowerPoint slide and was fully immersed in it. All of a sudden, she lost the momentum of the presentation and excused herself, and soon after learned that the training had been postponed to another day.

Most people in the room must have known the reason, as, like me, others must have also spotted a red spot on her bright yellow dress when she was leaving the room. The room was full of whispers for a few seconds. Most men in the room must have experienced disgust and women, embarrassment. This is a pervasive feeling shared by most of the working women every month.

It is disturbing to experience such feelings when roughly 26% of the global population bleeds. The actual rate is even higher as it is not only women but also trans-men and non-binary people who menstruate. Though roughly 3 out of 10 people bleed every month, still people cringe at the sight of a red spot on a saree, salwar-suit, jeans, skirt, or a dress. That day I learned that ‘learning on the job’ is not only about work-learning but also about bleed-learning.

Well, this happened in a swanky office of a multinational corporation where one can excuse oneself and have access to washrooms and sanitary napkins and can take an off and go home to save oneself from a day full of humiliating and disgusting glances. But what about the women working in the unorganized sector?

Bleeding Working Population

According to study, women make up 48.2% of India’s population. As per another report, 95% Indian working women work in unorganized sector consisting of domestic workers, handloom workers, fishermen, weavers, etc who have no access to proper toilets, sanitation or hygiene.

Bleeding On Field Duty

Due to the stigma attached to a biological process, the plight of women working in unorganized sectors or on the field like policewomen and vendors never reaches our ears. Unlike corporate employees, they don’t have to face only humiliation and embarrassment but have to manage in either unhygienic or total absence of any facilities.

One of my friends’ mom, who is now retired, served as a police officer. She narrates her personal experience of bearing the pain in her breasts due to wearing body armour over her uniform, during her periods. And despite that pain, she had to stay active in the field and perform her duties without being able to share her pain with anyone. And needless to remind here, that it’s a monthly affair.

Bleeding Is Still A Stigma

Irrespective of the sector, IT or teaching or hairdressing, one thing is common: menstruating at work is considered a sign of weakness and shame. Along with monthly bleeding and cramps, most women go through a messy and unpleasant experience at the workplace. They do not even speak about it because it’s masked with shame and anxiety.

It doesn’t matter which sector one works in. Stigma remains the same everywhere. I, myself could never tell my cis-male boss that I need a leave due to menstrual cramps. I had a different and legitimate-sounding excuse every month – guests coming over, cousin’s wedding, doctor appointment, etc. I bet my boss would have been fully aware of the real reason if he were keeping track of my leave dates. There have been so many instances where women found their colleagues/bosses tracking their menstrual cycle.

Breaking The Taboo

New-age organizations are playing a significant role in breaking ‘period stigma’. A few big organizations like Nike already have a period-leave policy in place. However, the real game-changers are the small and relatively new companies like Zomato, Culture Machine, Gozoop who have recently introduced their ‘period leave’ policies. However, a long way to go before they become the best versions as these policies still need time to get refined.

Irrespective of that, this is an extremely progressive move that would force other companies to think about it and get inspired to consider providing the same to their menstruating employees.

You must be to comment.

More from nehamanu.yka

Similar Posts

By Meharmeet Kaur Thandi

By Meharmeet Kaur Thandi

By Meharmeet Kaur Thandi

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, 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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below