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Period-Unfriendly Washrooms: A Nightmare For Menstruating Students In Jadavpur University

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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.

I am a menstruating student, currently studying at Jadavpur University. I still remember the day I got accepted; it was a dream come true to be a part of one of the most eminent institutions in the country. The first few days in college felt incredible: it is a pretty huge campus, airy and beautiful, with greenery all around. This reverie of mine was, however, very short-lived; and it ended the day I stepped inside one of the campus washrooms for the first time.

The washrooms were something out of a horror story, and I am not even exaggerating.

The first thing that hits you when you enter a campus washroom is the stench, which is revolting enough to make you feel nauseous. A few of the doors of the stalls were broken, and the locks were missing. I tried to hold my breath and go about my business, but when I entered one of the stalls, I realized that I had started chumming. My periods were early, and I was not carrying a menstrual cup that day. Due to skin problems, I refrain from using disposable sanitary pads, but I had no choice. I tried to flush the toilet, but it seemed as if the cisterns were dysfunctional. By then, I was starting to panic, and I walked outside with my bloodied underwear, looking for a pad.

The only pharmacy situated on campus was a 15-minute walk away from my department. I started walking towards it, fearful of the fact that my white pants could get stained at any moment. When I reached the shop, I was informed that they only had a large-sized packet of a brand that I had never used or even heard of. I rushed into a nearby building, hoping that the toilets would be better than the previous one. To my utter disappointment, they were not. The taps were not working, and there was no clean, running water to wash my hands with. Somehow I managed to clean off the mess with disposable wet tissues (which I carry in my bag) but felt too sick to carry on with my classes.

Representational Image

Ever since that incident, I have avoided going to college on my heavy-flow days. I miss important classes that way, but I would rather have it that way than visit the toilets. The disgusting conditions of the washrooms in almost every single department makes it really hard for menstruating students to change their sanitary products (be it pads or menstrual cups). The cubicles lack trash-cans where one can throw their used sanitary pads, and most of the time, the commodes are blocked or overflowing with excreta and dirty pads.

On normal days when I’m not menstruating, I visit a nearby mall whenever I need to use the loo. It costs Rs. 50 every trip, and I am one of the privileged ones who can afford to spend that kind of money in order to maintain personal hygiene. A lot of students from lower-income backgrounds and even those who stay in the hostels have no choice but to sacrifice their hygiene by using the washrooms on campus.

It is not just Jadavpur University; a lot of educational institutions have a recurring problem of unsafe, unhygienic, and dysfunctional washrooms. Many students have confessed that they are forced to skip college on period days, and some regularly contract diseases like urinary tract infections (UTIs) and fungal infections due to unclean washrooms. It has been six years since the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission which aimed to improve sanitary conditions for women, especially in the rural areas; yet, bleeding with dignity is still not possible for millions of menstruators. Why is access to basic sanitary amenities and running water still considered a privilege, rather than the norm?

Being deprived of as basic a human right as access to sanitation fuelled me to start my campaign, called The Bleed Eco Project in association with the Youth Ki Awaaz Action Network on Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM). It aims to transform the washrooms on campus and make them period-friendly, hygienic, and accessible. Our demand is addressed to Prof. Suranjan Das, the Vice-Chancellor to take action on the atrocious conditions of washrooms in educational institutions which have proved to be a menace for menstruating students.

You can help my campaign grow and spread the word by signing our petition addressed to the Vice-Chancellors of several prominent universities in West Bengal. One signature from you can help us go a long way in achieving our goal to make washrooms in educational institutions period-friendly, hygienic, and accessible to all.

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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, 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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