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Don’t Let Anyone Tell You That You Can’t Play Sports During Your Period!

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During our school days, most of us have had the experience of missing out on our Physical Training (PT) classes due to our periods. It was hardly our fault. Our parents, families, school authorities and physical training instructors did hardly anything to educate us on menstruation and physical activities. In fact, they played a major role in further reinstating myths. 

Source: Feminism in India

Many of us have grown up with the idea that menstruation and physical training cannot go hand in hand. One should not exercise at all when one is bleeding or has reached menarche, is what we were specifically taught. However, that is far from the truth. A survey conducted (which included a total of 241 elite athletes) showed that in the initial 14 days of the menstruation more than 70% of the athletes felt well, more than 62% of them said that they did not notice any significant change in their performance and 21% mentioned the worsening of their performance during menstruation. 

How Do  Different Phases In The Period Cycle Impact Physical Training Abilities?

On the first day of one’s period, the estrogen and progesterone levels are at the lowest but they increase gradually. The week following the end of the period, the energy levels rise with the increase in estrogen as the body prepares for ovulation. Estrogen levels are at the highest during ovulation. After the ovulation period, progesterone levels rise which can make a menstruator feel more tired than usual.

However, that should not stop one from engaging in physical activities as exercising can help with the sluggishness. The above-mentioned survey also records 71% menstruating athletes experiencing the worst energy levels days before their periods which is explained by the dip in both estrogen and progesterone in the body (also known as the luteal phase). 

It has been noted that research on how menstruating athletes should practice and exercise is extremely limited and often times the methods followed are what works for non-menstruating male athletes, specifically. Menstruators adapt differently to training at different points of their cycle.

One study which focuses mainly on understanding menstruation in elite athletes and using the menstrual cycle to optimize training while decreasing injury notes the different types of training that can be adopted during different points for maximum utilization (for example, strength training can yield more results during the initial part of the cycle because the body tends to adapt and heal better then).

‘There Is No Normal Or Single Way To Bleed!”

It is also extremely crucial to smash the myth of menstrual normativity because there is no normal or single way to bleed. Menstruators experience a lot of different complications including dysmenorrhea, endometriosis, fibroids and PMDD which require serious attention.

These complications impact one’s psychological and physiological well-being. Another study found that physiological performance was notably better during the menses phase (MP) than in the proliferative and secretory phases (PSP) and also how physiological and psychological performance (which play very important roles) can be improved by monitoring the menstrual phases. 

Why is it extremely crucial to monitor and tailor the training of menstruators?

For the longest time, the menstruating athlete was kept in the dark. The discourse around menstruation in sports or how it affects one’s performance was invisibilized and considered unimportant. Athletes were made to just pop a pill to delay their periods with no regard to their physical or mental health. Rigorous exercises when not in sync with the different phases can lead to a lot of complications including amenorrhea.

“The discourse around menstruation in sports or how it affects one’s performance was invisibilized and considered unimportant.” Representational image only.

More often than not, the coach and performing directors are cis-gendered males with no idea about menstruation and that makes it harder for athletes to open up or manage their periods properly. In recent times, many menstruating athletes have started coming forward with their stories of menstrual management during training and competition and how it impacts their overall performance.

The English Institute of Sports (EIS) has launched the Smart Her Campaign which prioritizes women and menstruators’ health and covers a wide array of topics that have been invisibilized in sports and have the potential to impact an athlete’s performance.  There has been a rising concern regarding (the lack of) monitoring and tailoring physical training according to the menstruating athletes’ bodies and new research are being conducted. 

It is high time that more focus is given on increasing public awareness on menstruation and coaching and training centres (local, national and international levels) need to start training while prioritizing menstruating athletes’ phases.   Discouraging young menstruators from taking part in sports is just another way of showing that it is a cis-gendered heterosexual man’s domain and further perpetuates patriarchy.

That added with very little awareness and information about the needs of menstruators makes it even easier to discredit their athletic prowess. It is also high time we move past the idea that menstruation is just a “girly” thing and sports’ being a “manly” (read misogynistic) sphere has no place for these things.

Seriously? Stop. Your misogyny is showing.

Written by Nirajana Sinha

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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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