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A ‘red mehndi’ campaign to promote menstrual hygiene

Over 400 girls in 32 slums in Odisha’s Berhampur are fighting stigma, unhygienic practices

Proudly displaying big ‘red mehndi’ dots on their palms, over 400 teenage girls in 32 slums in Odisha’s Berhampur are propagating messages of menstrual hygiene in their areas.

It is their ‘red dot challenge’ to celebrate Menstruation Hygiene Day on May 28. They will continue the campaign even after it. Utilising the relaxation of lockdown restrictions, they came out of their homes from May 25 to strengthen their campaign against stigma and superstitious unhygienic practices related to menstruation. As a precaution against COVID-19, they do not forget to wear masks and maintain social distance.

These girls, daring generations-old stigma related to menstruation, are part of the ‘Kishori Shakti’ project started this year in Berhampur slums from Women’s Day on March 8. The project initiated by the Youth for Social Development (YSD) initially had only 14 members but its present membership has grown to over 400. Now even the most shy women and most orthodox males are unable to ignore our mission, said Subhashree Behera, 17, of the Raghupati Nagar slum.

‘Nature’s gift’

“People enquire whether the red mehndi dots we display on our palms is related to any festivity at home. We do not shy away to answer that it is mark of our pride to have menstruation, a beauty of nature gifted only to females,” said Smruti Kumari Sahu, 18, a leader of these girls at the Raghupati Nagar slum.

A ‘red mehndi’ campaign to promote menstrual hygiene

The ‘teen clubs’ promoted by the YSD in slums of Berhampur helped in uniting the young girls. Mamali Das of the Gramadevati Sahi slum said young girls and married women in their locality still bear plenty of superstitions related to menstruation and did not use sanitary napkins. Through their ‘red dot’ campaign, they want to target these women. Through the project, boys of ‘teen clubs’ in slums are also made aware to accept menstruation of women as a normal and natural process.

Sanitary napkins

Remaining in touch with local ASHA volunteers and Anganwadi workers, these girls are pressing women of their areas to discard use of dirty clothes during menstruation and instead use sanitary napkins distributed free. At the request of these girls, YSD volunteers have started distributing sanitary napkins to the returning women migrant workers on the Andhra Pradesh-Odisha border in Ganjam district.

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Printable version | Jul 16, 2020 6:20:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/a-red-mehndi-campaign-to-promote-menstrual-hygiene/article31690933.ece

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