Pooja: Hey, do you have a pad?
Pooja: I have to go back home, it’s a female emergency
The above statements might be simple sentences, but have complex feelings churning inside of them. They might be a short sentence, but speak volumes in itself. Do you remember which century we live in? With the world reaching the zenith in technology and sciences, our discussions related to freedom begin and end with menstruation. Let me tell you about two Poojas, one who lives in a metropolitan city, while the other one in a small village. Both of them are adolescent girls who menstruate, but the question is how are they different? The answer is when one bleeds, her tension is PMS, posting periods selfies, crying about cramps, not that they aren’t painful and unimportant, but the latter fights for her education, fear infection of wearing clothes in those seven days, faces taboo and gets treated like an untouchable. Yes, this is the scenario of the very same country where a festival is celebrated for Goddess menstruating, but when girls menstruate, they suddenly become untouchables. Don’t blame yourself, after all, we are all tied to the chains of slavery to uncanny rituals and way of life passed down by ancestors.
It is not wrong to say that life in metropolitan or urban areas in terms of menstruation is a bit easier when compared to that of rural areas, the sheer reason being education, and availability of proper hygiene, or else being cool on social media in support of menstruation, yet the lifestyle affects many in different aspects, the adverse effects that rural people lack. But urban places have their share of problems faced by girls and ladies.
Period of shame:
Did someone get you into thinking that, menstruation in an urban place is a life of peace? My friend you have never went to buy pads it seems. Pads are wrapped in black bags as if we are carrying shame which should remain suppressed always. Women are subjected to not only judgments but often opportunities are robbed of because of the belief that periods stops them from being their full potential. Menstruation and ads related always create a very awkward situation at home and in society.
We are a diverse country and the restrictions are varied too — Females in South India are often asked not to sleep with spouses during menses, Social discrimination is done based on the spread of impurity, etc, Modernisation forgot to get these discriminations eradicated.
To then not fight with customs and cult we are uncomfortable with, the change should begin from the grass-root level, and often the judgment turns into taboos and superstitions because, when at a young ag girl are burdened with the knowledge of menstruation, boys are asked not to inquire about the same and girls are asked to remain to shush over it, How can we demand the removal of silence over menses when at the beginning only we teach them to be whisper about it?
We suffer from minor annoyances such as pain and discomfort. Menstruation prevents them from going to school or to work, and sometimes from performing daily activities like cooking, praying, or even being in their own homes. Widespread restrictions and negative perceptions around menstruation contribute to strong gender disparities in health, education, and unwanted mental trauma. Yet an advantage that rural places hold over urban places is the lifestyle, as it's ingrained in them for physical activities from an early age, which saves them from a lot of mines-related lifestyle disorders.
Menstruation lives more myths and taboos influenced by cultural and religious beliefs and is perceived as dirty, impure, and even unholy. Because of this, menstruation is surrounded by a culture of shame and silence. Menstruating women are often expected to follow a set of stringent rules during their periods such as not entering the kitchen and not touching certain foods. It is a topic hushed more than taught about and unlike urban privileges, many girls when first get their periods have no idea or knowledge about the same. Mothers and teachers are too ashamed to talk about it and find the topic embarrassing, perpetuating an environment of shame and secrecy around menstruation.
Rural women lack the means to buy sanitary napkins or tampons. The most common alternative is cloth, and while the cloth is not unhygienic per se, without proper care its use increases the risk of infection. Misinformation and stigma often lead them to use unsanitary methods like dirty rags, leaves, sand, or ash. And society and its rules prevent them from washing their cloth publicly and more importantly from drying them in the sun, and they end up using a damp cloth which is unhygienic and hazardous to health.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Policies and programs to ensure that learning well-working environments are gender-inclusive are urgently needed. Dynasties of government have come and gone, promises have been made, but was it ever followed? Many youngsters have strived to bring change in these terms whether it is rural or urban. The building of clean public toilets, ensuring the availability and accessibility of sanitary napkins, and imposing mandatory menstrual health classes for both boys and girls are important, to bring in change from an early age.
Menstruation wasn’t chosen but bestowed for procreation. Pads have been categorized as luxury items, women should be granted access to quality sanitary pads, tampons, or other hygienic methods of protection. Sanitary pads have the potential to improve girl’s attendance at school since they prevent issues like staining and odor. Self-help groups and NGOs have started up making low-cost sanitary napkins for rural women, if one can’t make them, one can contribute their bit by funding them or donating pads to ones in need.
The saying often goes like ‘Be the change you want to see’, little things matter, similarly a small help can be a big boon to the ones in need, here’s a tip, to begin this chain of change start the change in your own home, help for the monthly sanitary napkin needs for your housemaid or cook, enlighten male members of the family about the issues females face, especially the younger generation, take a step to buy Sanitary napkins without feeling ashamed for buying it i.e. buy it without the black covers and if you are a guy who has sisters and friends, never make fun of what they are going through, little empathy always helps.
Menstruation is being slowly taken out of the cages and talked about in the public domain making it a human rights issue, but a lot of progress still has to be achieved. The ultimate goal is that every girl in every nook and corner of the world has access to proper sanitation during their periods, and is aware that menstruation is a normal bodily function and nobody has the right to shame her for that.
Written by Upasana
Designed by Dheeraj