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Celebrate Menstrual Hygiene Day With These Four Poems

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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.

‘Menstruation Poetry’, a recitation of several poems spanning over varied issues related to menstruation was organised on Instagram Live on the occasion of International Menstrual Hygiene Day, May 28, 2021, by Breaking the Silence Worldwide Foundation, an NGO based in Bengaluru that is working to end myths, taboos and stigma associated with menstruation since 2014.

Meaningful discussions around period pain, sexist jokes and behaviour targeting menstruators around Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), period leave, period exile, sanitary products, solid waste management, the culture of shame and silence, managing menstruation during the pandemic, and call for action ensued after the recitals that featured poems from established writers including Pinky Chandran, a broadcasting journalist, poet, waste management expert and co-founder of Solid Waste Management Round Table; Charmaine Kenita a writer, entrepreneur and Founder of Out O Box Content; Shilok Mukkati a journalist/columnist, artist and independent advocate of inclusivity and diversity; and Urmila Chanam, Founder of Breaking the Silence Worldwide Foundation, menstrual health activist and journalist.

In Pinky’s words, “Poetry is a way of examining our relationships, with the society at large, and helps rationalise, after all menstruation is a health issue to be navigated.”

Click here to find Menstruation Poetry on Instagram. 

Seven Days Of Period

I bleed once in a lifetime, and it isn’t a cycle.
I bleed to the birth I can give once in a lifetime.
Is it a period? I say it is.
When I bleed gallons of blood for a week,
indeed, it is my period.
The uterus is unknown to my body, and my blood is
not from the womb, not the womb that my mother bled or my sisters.
My bleeding is different from their stories.
The story that they never heard.
The story of non-cis-genderness.
Tenderness of unusual bleeding.
The bleeding, I never told.
The bleeding, I hushed into myself.
An Obligation, an isolation and a celebration.
My period was the birth of my vagina.
The beginning of my womanhood.
And, I found peace with my bleeding.
Years it waited to break out,
break out from the dysphoria,
Dysphoria of horrors.
I expected a flow of an aggressive river
which waited to blow out.
When she finally did, surprisingly, she was gentle.
White clothes cloaked the seven days of bleeding.
Every droplet of the bleeding spoke of the violence of a binary world.
Every droplet of the bleeding shunned the isolation of toxic masculinity.
Every droplet of the bleeding smiled the celebration of transcendence feminity.
My seven days of period stopped when she was ready to breathe her femininity, she who is Swayambu – self-created one.

Shilok Mukkati


I wake up, ready to take on the world,
And then slowly, out of nowhere,
I find pain creeping,
Mild at first, then,
Building, shifting, twisting,
I ignore it,
Going about my day,
With a forced calm,
Making sense of this imposition,
And then suddenly,
I feel knotted and wound up,
I sigh,
Then cry, and I ask why?
I am hurting,
I find no reasons,
I want to vent, and cry
But, I try to disguise,
And put on my best foot forward,
It’s distressing,
I can’t justify,
Like dark clouds, hovering around,
I feel perplexed,
I feel my mood swinging,
Changing, conflicting, contradicting,
I go on an overdrive,
But, my emotions are running a riot,
I feel like a twig ready to snap,
I wonder,
Can rationality co-exist with irrationality?
I need a release,
But then,
A harsh word, or a toast burnt,
Or even a writer’s block,
Is enough to send me crashing…

Bleed In Dignity

I walked, and walked,
Holding my child, in one hand,
Carrying another on my hip,
I walked and walked,
With my meagre belongings,
Mass Exodus,
They called,
Pictures of our walk back home,
Surfaced everywhere,
Some strangers offered food and water,
While some handed out masks,
Some offered sanitary pads,
But was I to do with the pads,
For my privacy was compromised,
Where are the spaces?
When our vulnerabilities don’t matter,
Where are the spaces?
When our existences have been invisibilized?
Where are the spaces?
When, I walked and walked
Where are the spaces?
When we were rendered homeless?
Where are the spaces?
Periods, then my friend
Was a luxury we could not afford…
For we need to bleed in dignity!

– Pinky Chandran

The Colour Of Blood

If only it were as simple as a quiet river running its course
Or a visitor who came by infrequently to mark his presence and collect his dues
One day riding high on a wave and the next drifting at sea
What it would feel like if it didn’t come like clockwork but instead visited freely
The bright hue of luscious red staining our lips or the pop of cherry smiling prettily on our birthday cakes
Are even more welcome in their signs of growing up than…
this redness, this bleed.

In its presence, when it appears
Our worlds are shaken, our thoughts scattered
There’s shame, there’s fear, there’s groaning, there’s revulsion
Why does it have to be us? Isn’t it enough that we’re saddled with everything else?
And together with the pain and the stains, what goes unacknowledged is the crazy mood monster making its presence felt
In the days before this rivulet of red begins to run
Fear and pain, depths and highs of emotions
Keeping us so preoccupied and constantly wrung.

If only it didn’t take a life and a half to truly grasp
That the river that flows bright and blood red, is the font of life itself
That there is nothing more faithful and forgiving as this gush
Returning every month to the same body
Sometimes quiet and gentle, some others roaring and chaotic
For therein lies growing and living, for from it comes little ones, and life itself
To allow it to run its course in a surge of passion and pain
This wildness that changes and transforms young bodies into chalices of quiet strength, with much to gain
Of blood that is rarely spoken, yet even more rarely seen
Blood that’s so essential to us, the absence of which can make millennia of existence cease.

– Dr Charmaine Kenita

That Seething Pain

That seething pain in the abdomen
The numbness in the knees
Forehead smothered with beads of perspiration
Irritation, impatience and exhaustion
What hope was there for me
Were it to occur for the rest of my life
Every month for few days?

That fear of staining my uniform
The distraction from what the teacher was saying
One more reason to be ridiculed
Side lined, silenced and warned
The dynamics in the classroom had changed
The inquisitive and participatory student
Transitioned into a back bencher unsure of herself.

That phase in our lives where no one
Ever asked our opinions on facilities meant for us
At home, in school, bus stand or airports
Did our business changing our pads in the quiet
In ugly, smelly broken toilets with empty buckets
We didn’t expect any better
Someone told us menstruation was dirty
Dirty things are not discussed to improve upon.

That deep line drawn at workplace
Dividing those who bleed from those who don’t
Propagating a lie of a weakness that doesn’t exist
Turning a blind eye to the power within the womb
Failing recognition and acknowledgment
Delaying truth and celebration.

So many seasons have come and gone
All left a mark on me, my body
Marriage, pregnancy, child birth, changing cities
Shifting jobs, parenthood and running a home
I waited for respite from the pain
“When you get married, it will go”, they said
“When you give birth to a child, it will leave you”
The child born will soon be an adult
That seething pain in the abdomen has held on to me.

– Urmila Chanam

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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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