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We are Nitish, Kalyani and Nrupraj. We work with Piramal Foundation for Education Leadership. Kalyani and I are Fellows and Nrupraj is our Programme Leader. We have been working with government schools in the tribal regions of Sarada, Udaipur (Rajasthan) for the past year and a half.
The regions in which we have been working are extremely deprived. Many of the villages are yet to have electricity. The awareness with respect to health and hygiene is poor. What really bothered us is the lack of awareness regarding Menstrual Health and Hygiene.
Perhaps the extent of the taboo, especially in the Indian context has been beautifully captured in this article by Disha Madhok, featured in Quartz (India). One does not need data to acknowledge the widespread prevalence of the taboo. However, just to be sure, we too, conducted our survey. We approached 100 government school girls and the data only confirmed the exhaustive data available online. A detailed report of the survey is available here.
95% of the girls were unaware of the reason for menstruation.
This lack of understanding not only leads to immense fear and trauma in a girl when she first experiences her periods, it is responsible for other effects such as lowered self esteem, belief in unscientific myths, etc. For instance,
68% of the girls believe that they are impure during the 3-7 days of menstruation.
What do we plan to do?
One of the most amazing things about this taboo lies in the simplicity of the solution. The taboo is a big one. A complex one. However, we realised, the solution is just as simple and small. We will reach out to the girls just a little before they attain puberty.
In order to be able to achieve it, we have:
1. Collaborated with 10 schools which have at least 1 lady teacher. From more than 30 schools, we shortlisted 15 schools and after a detailed interaction with the headmaster and the staff and after finding the motivation on the part of the teachers to take this initiative forward, we have chosen 10 schools.
2. Collaborated with Jatan Sansthan for support with the training. Jatan has offered to conduct 2 workshops. 1 for the teachers from the schools and the other one for the girl student representative from classes 6,7 and 8 respectively, from each of the 10 schools. The teachers, with the assistance of the girl representative, will replicate the workshop in their respective schools.
3. Approached Aditi Gupta, co-founder of Menstrupedia.com. We want to make the Menstrupedia Comic available in the school libraries so that the girls have access to these books to understand the process of menstruation from the comfort (and privacy) of their homes. The book is extremely valuable, we will be able to reach out to schools where there is no lady teacher who can guide the girls or in schools where the lady staff is not comfortable in talking to the girls. In such cases, just issuing the books to the girls can still make a significant contribution to the girls' lives.