For maximum impact, listen more and speak less – By Anchal Srivastava

Every story, each poem that a person shares, each voice that speaks about menstrual taboo, inspires me and brings me closer to breaking this taboo…

I belong to a business class family from Lucknow (U.P.) and am currently pursuing my M.B.A from Banasthali University, Rajasthan. A few years ago, I realized the urgent need to tackle the problem of menstrual hygiene, when my mother suffered from ovarian cancer in 2012 due to an infection in her vagina because of fluctuation in her menstrual cycle. This made her suffer a lot for 2 years. But she came out stronger from this and recovered completely. It’s not just the story of my mother but, the story of millions of other women in India suffering from the same cause. These reasons drew me to this topic and I wanted to bring about a change in menstrual hygiene management; as it’s a matter of dignity for every woman.

Thus, began my journey in this field. I worked on creating awareness regarding menstrual hygiene with rural women of Rajasthan during my first year of MBA. As a part of my MBA curriculum, I have been interning with Saral Designs, a product driven start-up focusing on designing a better future for menstrual hygiene management by producing sanitary pads of high quality at an affordable price. At Saral, my learnings have only doubled as I have been exposed to the problems at the grass root level. Every day is a learning experience for me and my colleagues play a vital role in this journey.The team at Saral is very dedicated and passionate about the issue and work very hard towards improving the state of menstrual hygiene in India. I work across various parts of Maharashtra to understand the prevalent situation of women on their periods.

Recently I conducted an event on menstrual hygiene day at YTM College of Management and Dental Science, Navi Mumbai. The objective of the event was to create awareness and bust various myths on menstruation. I sat at a corner in the auditorium with over 100 students, patiently observing the crowd and scanning my audience. The students sat quietly with no participation from their side. Even though the students were from a medical background, there was no active participation from their end. They were shy and very uncomfortable to open up about the topic of periods. In the meantime, I was making a mental note of the various activities I can conduct to get active participation from the crowd.  As soon as I went to the podium, I started with an ice breaking game and a video which instantly got the crowd on their feet. I talked about the superstitions behind myths, scientific facts about menstruation and tried to bring light to the misconceptions people have about periods. Apart from creating awareness about menstruation, I spoke about the sanitary pads we, at Saral Designs make – Active Ultra and also distributed a few free samples of Active Ultra to the crowd. The moment I left the stage, people clapped and hooted loudly, that’s when I realized the event was a success.

I was happy that I could inspire the crowd to engage in a discussion on menstruation. I take back this great experience, knowledge from other speakers as a valuable learning in my bag. This is what Saral gave me in just half a month. I look forward to the rest of the  5 ½ months to go with Saral; to learn, to experience and delve much deeper into the world of menstruation and break the taboo!