Breaking the taboo around menstruation

 Centre for Advocacy and Research volunteers conducting a session for school children on menstrual hygiene in K.P. Agrahara, Bengaluru.

Centre for Advocacy and Research volunteers conducting a session for school children on menstrual hygiene in K.P. Agrahara, Bengaluru.

Arunachalam Muruganantham, the real ‘Padman’ who revolutionised the menstrual hygiene space by manufacturing low-cost sanitary pads, continues to be an inspiration. His initiative, which stirred a movement around a not-much-talked about subject of periods, has led to similar endeavours to break the taboo around menstruation.

We look at some of the ones which have been doing their bit to promote awareness about menstrual health and hygiene in Bengaluru.

Period Fellowship

Sukhibhava, a social enterprise building awareness and improving access to healthy menstrual practices among marginalised women and adolescent girls, is offering a year-long Period Fellowship. A group of 40 women will be selected to create awareness on menstruation and personal hygiene among girls in eight places across India starting this May.

“We have scaled up our school project to offer Period Fellowship to women who will be working with girls in Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune and four districts of Karnataka. It is a residential programme and the women will be paid ₹ 30,000 per month for their work,” said Dilip Pattubala, co-founder of Sukhibhava.

The organisation has received over 150 applications for the fellowship and is in the process of shortlisting 40 women. Following a two-week induction programme in Bengaluru, the fellows will conducts two sessions a day for 180 days in schools and colleges on body image, menstrual cycle, personal hygiene and superstitions. “The fellows will be trained in leadership skills and we will be providing the content. At their camp, they will be guided by a programme coordinator,” he said.

To make it a self-sustaining model, the fellows will form peer groups in each school. The selected students from the school will be trained to independently take the initiative forward. “We want the knowledge transfer to happen in an organic way and the best way is to allow adolescent girls to take it forward. The idea behind the fellowship is to bring a change in the mindset among young girls and women about menstruation and related issues,” Mr. Pattubala said.

Sessions in city slums

The Bengaluru chapter of Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) has been conducting awareness sessions among women and adolescent girls about menstrual hygiene in slums in the city. Around 20 members and 150 volunteers have been meeting women once a month in 32 wards to talk about safe menstrual practices and health issues. The centre conducts regular sessions on periods in government schools in the city.

Vanishree, one of the staff of CFAR, works with women living in slums in K.P. Agrahara and Sanjaygandhi Nagar. “Most of the women continue to use cloth during their periods either because they are comfortable with it or are unable to afford sanitary pads. We try to tell them how to clean and dispose the cloth after usage. Sessions are also held for young girls entering puberty. Some of them are shy and don’t want to talk about menstruation. We tell them it is a natural process and they need to be open about it,” she said.

CFAR has formed a small group of girls within each community and trained them to talk about menstruation to others.

From menstrual hygiene to menstrual health

Mythri Speaks, a trust working on issues pertaining to women, children and marginalised communities, has interacted with over 15,000 adolescent girls and women in nine states to understand the practices and problems pertaining to menstruation. The organisation released an animated film Mythri in Kannada based on the questions asked by some girls in government schools. The film is available online and has been shared with the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan. It was part of the Girl Child Project in Karnataka. The same film has been dubbed into nine Indian languages. “We have reached more than 4 million adolescent girls across India through this film,” said Sinu Joseph, founder of Mythri Speaks.

The organisation does not promote any particular product, but focuses on menstrual health. “We have even come across around 80 women in Raichur who bleed directly onto their sari skirts. Similarly, there are women who use cloth simply because they prefer it. We do not impose our opinion on others regarding menstrual products because there is no existing evidence in any research or medical publication that links menstrual disorders with a particular product,” she said.

The organisation conducts regular sessions in schools in and around Bengaluru to help girls overcome inhibitions around menstruation.

Teaching mothers

Menstrual education must begin at home. That is why Youth for Seva, Bengaluru, apart from working with adolescent girls, reaches out to mothers, asking them to be more open about periods with their children.

“Many women do not know the biological aspects related to periods and hence, are unable to teach their children. We conduct sessions for women in urban and rural Karnataka on how to introduce the subject to their young children,” said Shashikala, health coordinator, Youth for Seva.

The team conducts sessions in schools and makes use of animated videos to teach children. “We have trained 1,500 women who now spread awareness about menstrual health in their respective communities,” she said.

The organisation has tied up with doctors to support the women. “Women and girls having issues with their menstrual cycle are referred to a doctor,” Ms. Shashikala said, adding that it is important to make women and adolescents understand that menstruation is a normal process and there is nothing to be shy about it.

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Printable version | Aug 19, 2022 2:46:14 am |