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“Why Can’t I Dry My Bras In The Open?” Here’s How I Broke That Taboo

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It all started with a discussion with my relatives and then a question popped up in my mind –“Why can’t I dry my bras in the open under the sun?”

Well, in our discussion I couldn’t get an answer for who started this idea of hiding women undergarments. Why hide a bra? Is it a private part? All this shook up my mind and I took a step to not hide my undergarments.

I started observing this in movies too. Whenever there is a sex scene, and the camera shows the woman’s undergarments, bras look like the material that attracted intercourse. How they humiliate our undergarments!

I Wondered Why We Had To Talk Of Our Undergarments In A Hushed Voice

I was in its standard 8 around age 15 when my breast started growing and needed some toning and support. I heard my classmates whispering and laughing aloud about something. I shouted “BRA” eagerly to know more about what they were talking about but immediately felt a bit embarrassed. Our teacher secretly instructed us about the bra and the need to wear it. This created a big confusion in my mind. Why was she telling this to us in so much secrecy?

For a while, I forgot all this, until my mum asked me to put my bra and panties in a corner where no one would see them. I just asked her why I needed to put my undergarments in the corner when all the other clothes were drying out in the open. She answered, “Do you think bras and panties are suitable to dry with other clothes?” That’s a weird answer, I thought. So, I decided to look at my neighbours and realized that even they did the same. This was not something that happened only at my home.

I refused to follow the cycle of shame women associate with their underwear. I started observing my neighbourhood, especially the ladies, noticing how they dry their undergarments. One day while I was at my friend’s home, I saw a lady who literally suffocated her undergarments by wrapping it with other clothes as she put them out in the sun. Before doing this, she gave a careful, ashamed look at all four sides as if no one was allowed to watch her doing this, or else she would die of shame. I gathered data from other ladies on this aspect. They all seemed ashamed at talking about their own undergarments. It was a hard time and I took a major step.

I Started A Revolution In My Neighbourhood By Breaking The ‘Shame’

It was time to take the decision time. On a sunny day, I let my bras dry under the sun, in the middle of ropes. For a few days, I was taunted by some ladies for this, but soon my mom realized, I didn’t care about what others thought.

I wonder who taught women to be ashamed of their undergarments. A woman feels no shame for drying undergarments on their balcony, out under the sun without feeling shame. But when it comes to their own house, women feel so embarrassed about it.

Since then, my undergarments have been drying in an open place. Let me make it very clear that it’s not a symbol of shame. It shows that I have freedom with dignity. I even encouraged teenagers in my neighbourhood to do the same without shame.

Even now, some of my neighbourhood girls feel shame and their mothers give an odd look at their girls becoming empowered because according to them we should be ashamed of this stuff. But I know my undergarments matter.

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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.

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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.

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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