On #MenstrualHygieneDay Let’s Start Having Conversations Around Periods
My work with Project Baala has given me insight into what the experience of menstruation is like for some and it’s disheartening
I clearly remember the first time I got my period. I was in sixth grade and thankfully at home. The moment it happened, I knew what it was. Rushing to my mother, I exclaimed in excitement, “It’s started!” And from then on, the reality of my experience was one of knowledge, understanding, and a support system of people who never stigmatised something so natural. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with everyone.
Since 2019, I have been working with Project Baala, an impact-oriented, youth-led organisation seeking to make menstruation a non-issue in India. While on visits to schools in rural India with the organisation, there was another reality I was presented with. While I spoke of the process of menstruation, the need for maintaining hygiene, environmentally friendly period practices and a lot more, the girls shifted in their seats, looked at each other shyly and sometimes giggled. Their discomfort with the topic was evident, as was their lack of awareness around it. After each workshop, I would ask them to come up to me personally and ask any questions they might have. These questions were the biggest eye-openers. They made me cognizant of my privilege in this sense.
One girl, in grade 10, walked up to me, and while extremely timid at that moment, gathered the courage to say something she had probably kept to herself all this while. “My periods started last year, and I was married off. My in-laws now want me to quit school and start having children.” She broke down as she continued, “I don’t want to leave this place, my friends, and I’m not ready to have children.” A child herself, I couldn’t even begin to imagine just how she was feeling, but the depth of the issue was crystal clear. In another school, another girl came up to me and said, “I’m in grade 11 and still haven’t got my period. I don’t have a mother, and I can’t speak to the men in my house about it.” When a child cannot share something that might be a medical problem with those in her family, even men, it is a sad state of affairs. Making exactly these problems a thing of the past is at the core of this organisation.
While Project Baala aims to make menstruation sustainable with sanitary napkins that can be reused for up to two years, their mission is much larger. It is one of imparting education, empowering women and then, protecting the environment. The pandemic has been disastrous for the world, and the issues around menstruation have taken a backseat. This is why all of us need to step in. Start small. Have conversations about periods and normalise discussions around them. Read up and educate people about menstrual hygiene and health. If you wish to contribute in a larger manner, look up NGOs that work in this field and donate to their cause. Or volunteer (online) and help keep the conversations going.
Let’s pledge to normalise periods and work towards giving access to menstrual hygiene products to everyone.