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Periods Are Not Just A Woman’s Thing

Menstruation is not only a women’s issue; the idea of visualizing “period” with a feminized lens is problematic as it doesn’t acknowledge and provide space of discussion and talk about the fact that other genders bleed too. People often forget this and a lot of people don’t know that other genders also experience menstruation. This is because of limited understanding and knowledge were given to them about menstruation.

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Did you know that period is not only a women issue?

This idea not only discriminates but also establishes a sense of negligence towards people who experience pain and discomfort during periods. If we talk about education on these issues, we need to acknowledge that school texts (books) always talk about menstruation’s gendered aspect. The texts always stated its women who experience menstruation.

Once puberty bumps, women and trans men, including other genders who experience menstruation are taught not to talk about periods openly. Firstly, the idea of menstruation is always seen for women, so cis-men are always put in a position where they are either unaware of menstruation, or they are not indulging in conversation related to it.

If the person who is bleeding needs a pad, they are supposed to ask from a person who experiences menstruation in a low and hushed voice. I remember when I was in school, I never asked for a pad because I used to be a very shy person. Similarly, I saw girls asking for pads and hiding in their pockets and jogging towards the washroom, trying to escape from male teachers and professors eyes.

In our culture, we have grown up hearing about the shame aspect, which is reflected with menstruation. We are frequently told things related to disgust about menstruation. And the cis-men (I’m quoting cis-men here because trans men also experience periods) are always kept at the position where they are not aware and not educated about it. They remain clueless over what period is and why it happens and all other information.

The presence of menstrual taboos empowers the exploitative nature of patriarchal societies. Therefore, it is necessary to talk openly about the taboos existing around us from the initial stage and criticize it at every moment because people who are experiencing their periods are tagged as impure and filthy.

They are expected to not indulge in social or cultural activities that lead to social exclusion. This demeans the identity of the entire menstruating population for no logical and rational reasons. These stigmas and stereotypes completely alienate them as it does not provide space for sympathy. It simply discards the presence of their whole identity because of some orthodox religious beliefs that tag women and other genders impure and unclean.

woman sitting in toilet
Representational image

As these reasons exist in the societies we live in, these are the very reasons why many men and women take it as it is and restrict their movements, work schedules and daily routines. These instances lead to happenings where women are not accepted at the places of worship. They are considered impure and are also advised or forced not to get involved in any religious act until their periods get over.

In certain regions, these superstitions and stigmas force women to get detached from their work, and also it forces them to not enter in spaces like the kitchen, sacred spaces etc. They are shamed for menstruating, and the cultural myths continuously try to put female and other genders at lower pedestal than cishet men. Menstruation has always been a subject of shame and embarrassment in traditional associations. Menstruating people are subjected to sleep on the ground and not touch anything that has some religious beliefs attached to it because people think it will get polluted or cursed.

Menstruation, from a very long time, has been considered impure and filthy. There is a long history of menstrual taboos in almost every culture that has discriminatory behaviour towards those who experience menstruation. These narratives manifest the ideas wherein the one who bleeds gets to hide and thinks the process of menstruation is associated with dirt and impurity, etc. As we all know, it has always been associated with disgust, shame and filth. A menstruating woman, in general, was taken to be as dirty, impure and unclean.

There is a need for breaking the normalized gendered thought/aspect in our society over the period. This attitude towards menstruation doesn’t give space to male get included in talks and conversations. Therefore, there is a need to break the barrier of feminine ideas and knowledge attached to menstruation for which period education is essential to be included in the curriculum. The stigma attached to periods will be broken as this will acknowledge that other genders, including men, also experience periods.

The representation of cis-women in commercial advertisements should be made more secular as the ignorance of this fact leads to suffering for other genders. People neglect and don’t support other genders. We need to discuss these issues in public to raise awareness. Different educational institutes need to plan webinars/ talks, sessions, including professionals and people who do experience this issue. Our education system needs to organize workshops and educate more and more people and students about these issues from the initial stage because it’s a taboo that’s still existing around us. We need to break it together by educating and informing people.

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  1. Swati Priya

    Thankyou for sharing your words with us Nivedita. This is really an informative article for me.✨

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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