A fight against period poverty

Yeay ! So finally it’s a Friday, the only day we have a Physical Education (PE) period where we get to play & have fun .

Oops, I forgot to introduce myself while I was getting excited . Hi, I’m Ria 6th grade student &.. Ohoo! The bell rang and it’s our math class. I should rush because my math teacher is very strict.

What’s with this headache & cramps? isn’t letting me to concentrate. (seeing her ritu)

Ritu : Hey Ria, are you okay ?

Ria  : No Ritu, I have a slight headache & cramps.

Ritu : Is it that time of the month for you ?

Ria  : oh no ! I’m afraid it is .

(Seeing Ria & Ritu disturbing the class, teacher gets angry and asks Ria to leave the classroom. While she is on the way to leave the class, teacher  happen to see a stain on her skirt. Feeling guilty for shouting at Ria teacher leaves the class to talk to her.)

Teacher : Ria

Ria : I’m sorry ma’am, I didn’t mean to disturb the class.

Teacher : I know, why don’t you go to the washroom looks like you got your period today?

Ria :  (sobbing) ma’am I forgot to get my cloth.

Teacher : Oh dear, why cloth? Do you feel comfortable using them?

Ria : Because my mom asked me to do so. But it is not at all comfortable & gives me rashes and irritation too

Teacher : I will talk to your mom about this but for now come with me.

 

We all have read a lot about period poverty and how women put their lives on threat by using unhygienic products during periods which may cause infections or reproductive health diseases. Ever wondered why does period poverty even exist?  A major section of society hesitates to talk about periods even today. Women are embarrassed to buy sanitary napkins from a male chemist or something that we experience in everyday life like chemists wrapping the packets of sanitary napkins while handing over to the customer. Students reluctant to talk with teachers about periods, and a majority of them drop out or remain absent when they start menstruating. With taboos and superstitions in different countries, even an open discussion in schools/ communities is impossible.

Period poverty is not only related to women, even men and transgenders form a part of wider society who needs to be informed. Well-informed masses will help remove stigma attached to menstruation. A lot of issues come under period poverty which need to be addressed. Many dedicated NGOs & social enterprises are diligently working towards overcoming this social issue. Fact is that every individual has to make an effort to overcome this issue and contribute towards an egalitarian society, ask why?  

 Globally, 1.2 billion women lack access to basic sanitation and hygiene as reported by the UN.
As per a report published by UNICEF and WaterAid, about 71% of girls in India are unaware about menstruation before their first period and about  60% of adolescent girls missed school on account of menstruation were 80% still use homemade pads.

There is an emerging need for government agencies to increase efforts to provide proper sanitation and actively participate to create awareness in menstrual hygiene. The government should also include menstrual hygiene management as a component in its health policy and device strategies to address this issue plaguing the country.

Following is a list of individual & groups working towards  better menstrual hygiene

1..Mukti Project
Two young women, Sarva Damani and Ayesha Alam, started Mukti Project to educate people about menstrual hygiene and also to help young girls continue their education. They realised that many female students were dropping out of school due to lack of knowledge on how to deal with menstruation. This led to the birth of Mukti Project, which has widened its scope of activity from only focusing on menstrual taboos to issues surrounding gender inequality and women’s safety in Mumbai.

2.Brinda Nagarajan

Brinda Nagarajan took time out from her job and trekked to some of Uttarakhand’s remotest villages to help the underprivileged. She would go to remote schools and speak to girls about menstruation. She has also conducted workshops to increase awareness about menstruation among locals. Although the women in these villages seemed amenable to change, they continued to use old cloths pads during their periods. Brinda set up a livelihood for these women. They were taught how to stitch sustainable and reusable cloth pads.

3.Menstrupedia

Started by Aditi Gupta, Menstrupedia a friendly guide to periods which helps females during their monthly cycles. The platform has made a great contribution by spreading awareness about menstruation. They also use a website, YouTube channel and comic book for the purpose

4.Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram.
An initiative by the government of India working for adolescent, who also take an active initiative in menstrual hygiene education.

5.Biswanath Chariali
At a time when the government has been spending crores of rupees to improve the overall health of the women of the country, a silent revolution is going on at Biswanath Chariali, that too, without any government help. This silent revolution is being led by Nayan Saikia, who had left a lucrative job at an ITC-owned star category hotel in Bengaluru for a noble cause – to create awareness among the poor rural women of Assam on cleanliness.

Then took loan to set up a sanitary pad machine. Nayan Saikia sells his napkins through rural women at villages at a very cheap rate. Parallely, he has been creating awareness among the village women on cleanliness because he believes that cleanliness leads to a healthy life. He holds awareness meetings in Assam, Kolkata and Delhi.

6.Pravin Nikam

Pravin Nikam is the founder of Roshni Foundation. He started the  period project, a campaign conducted to eliminate the taboo attached with menstruation. He aims to spread awareness among young girls and women regarding their menstrual health and hygiene as well as staying informed about their body and managing their periods effectively in rural India.

7.Maya Vishwakarma

She  decided to not only educate girls and women across tribal MP about the importance of safe menstrual health, but also to provide them safe and effective sanitary pads. Maya has set up a manufacturing unit whose innovative machine was built by engineering-management graduates Anurag and Birag Bohre from Gwalior. Her  target is to reach out to girls at 450-plus schools in 21 districts and educate them about the importance of safe menstrual health to make the entire trek a public movement.In the pipeline is another plan to find donors who can fund the mission to produce and distribute sanitary pads free of cost. For now, Maya who has earned the moniker of ‘Pad-jiji’ is helped by tribal women from Narsinghpur district in running the unit.

8.Goonj


Goonj, set up by Roman Magsaysay Award winner Anshu Gupta, focuses on creating change in rural India by contributing through cloth and other items. The NGO is making efforts to restore the dignity of the rural community. Their initiative ‘Not Just a Piece of Cloth’ addresses a serious need of women in villages by providing them with clean cloth sanitary pads.

9.Saral Designs

Founded by Suhani Mohan and Kartik Mehta, Saral Designs is a platform that solves problems related to menstruation, hygiene, and sanitation.  They have developed a machine for producing ultra-thin sanitary napkins at a decentralised scale. In 2012, Suhani learnt about the dismal state of menstrual hygiene in India while she met Anshu Gupta, Founder of Goonj. Till then, she hadn’t realised how rural women wouldn’t be able to afford sanitary pads due to their cost. She then teamed up with Kartik and explored ways to make low-cost sanitary napkin.

10.Sacchi Saheli

Sacchi Saheli is a Delhi-based NGO that conducts sessions on menstrual awareness in various slums in the city.  Through their Break the Bloody Taboo campaign, they are aiming to break the common myths among-st girls about menstruation.