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A Simple Guide of Key Components Of Menstruation To Be Addressed In Schools 

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Written by Joyoti Chowdhury

As menstruators, our experience in school plays a vital role in shaping our attitude and confidence. In India, the lack of a sensitive school environment leads to an increased dropout rate amongst girls as they reach puberty. The age group of children who experience menstruation for the first time ranges from the age group of 9-15 years.

So it is significant to introduce lessons around menstruation in schools during this age. Needless to say, one must begin by walking the students through the understanding of how menstruation is an absolutely normal process. Here are some of the key components of menstrual hygiene management, which are addressed by menstrual educators.

Two school girls in India

It Is Fine!

It is fine! If the period comes unannounced. There is nothing to be ashamed of about experiencing menstruation. Do try carrying an extra menstrual care product of your choice in your bag for your convenience.

It is important for such lessons to be conducted in a safe environment to ensure students do not feel shy to engage in this conversation. This process will also enable to dismantle the existing cultural barriers and taboos around menstruation. Having said that, schools must also be equipped with adequate access to menstrual care products, making students’ experience of menstruation more comfortable in the school environment.

Puberty And Menstruation

When we are talking about menstruation, it is not enough to talk about only the menstruation process. It is important to tell the students about various bodily changes like -the growth of the breast, the hair on the body and other hormonal changes. It is important to make sure you are neither scared nor ashamed of these changes. While menstruation is often talked about as a gendered experience, the intersectional understanding of it must never be overlooked while engaging in dialogues around menstruation.

What’s All The Hush-Hush About?

We often see young girls hiding about their periods as if it is their biggest secret. But it is important to remember there is nothing to be ashamed of about menstruation and thus requires no ‘hush-hush’ and no need of hiding it from any gender. Even in their homes, the students must not feel inhibited to express their various concerns around their experience of menstruation.

It is important to remember that the stigma around menstruation leads to misinformation, conflicting ideas, and exclusion. The students must be encouraged to engage in the conversation around menstrual health, but according to their comfort and space.

Menstruation And Pain

For many, this experience of menstruation can be extremely painful. This experience of pain can vary from person to person. So in order to ease the pain, here are a few things you can do:

  • Go for a short walk.
  • Get eight hours of sleep every night.
  • Drink lots of water- this is the most important point to be remembered
  • And lastly, of course, take some gentle pain medicines.

But in case the pain is extremely unbearable, and you also experience heavy bleeding for a long time, make sure to seek help from a community health worker or doctor. Make sure always to remember (what we need to keep telling our children), “Do Not be ashamed if something seems wrong. Get Help

It is also important to have a well-balanced diet. It does not mean avoiding certain foods and drinks as instructed to you by your community or religion. You are experiencing menstruation, not diabetes, that you gotta stop eating your favourites! Exercise during this time can also help with the pain.

Hygiene Is Your Asset

Make sure to keep yourself clean, as unclean practices can expose you to the risk of infections. It is important to wash outside your genital area. In case you plan to skip a bath, make sure to wash your genital area using a small amount of plain water, soap and a soft cloth.

Disposal Techniques

Make sure to dispose of your used sanitary pads inside the bin and never down the toilet. Disposable pads must be changed every six hours or earlier (if there is a feeling of discomfort). The students must be made aware of the various cons of using disposable pads.

It is significant for educators to initiate a conversation around sustainable menstrual care products as it is a more healthy, eco-friendly and affordable option.

As educators, it is important to engage in conversation around the MHM program participants as it would enable them to address various neglected issues and understand their experience comprehensively. It is important to remember menstruators’ experience of menstruation must not be homogenized. In order to improve the experience of menstruation amongst school goers, one can not miss out infrastructural facilities of the schools themselves.

All this education will fall short to make a difference if the schools fail to create a menstruator friendly environment. It is significant for schools to have an adequate number of clean toilets with proper WASH facilities and lock systems. There must be buckets with lids for disposing of used pads. In order to maintain hygiene, hand washing facilities with soap is mandatory. And it is high time the schools should normalize the period talk!

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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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