Bleed to Feed..
The issue of menstruation and the problems that women face because of it, irrespective of their background, have existed in our country for long and they seem to be going nowhere because nobody wants to talk about it. We should have had no surprise when we became aware of the situation in the villages we are currently working in. But the extent to which it has paralyzed the social system in the rural areas was enough to disturb me. It gave an idea about how a normal physiological process can become a plague due to lack of awareness. We have been working in rural communities for more than a year now and the following conversation with a pre-teen girl of class 6 caught my attention.
She: Ma’am, I won’t be able to come to school now.
She: My mother won’t allow me. She says I have grown up. I shouldn’t be going to school now.
We were surprised. A visit to her house confirmed our apprehensions. She had started getting her periods. And she wanted to go to school but she was embarrassed of the incessant bleeding. She is afraid of how her friends will react when they see her clothes and become aware of her condition. There were hundreds of other restrictions that had been imposed on her because of this ‘evil’ thing that is happening to her body and she has no idea of what is this evil thing and why is this happening to her.
There are many other girls like her in the communities who compromise with their freedom, give up on their dreams because of lack of awareness on menstruation. Most of these girls are first generation learners and have to dropout of schools because of periods. Most of them do not have a friend, a counsellor or a teacher they can talk to like girls in the urban areas have. The elderly are the only option that they can turn to. A catch, however is that they are not educated and aware themselves and hence the cycle of awareness gap continues. The toilet facilities are not proper and extremely unhygienic. Worse, the local women use sand and ashes during their periods. Menstrual health and hygiene is a very important issue because half of the world gets affected by it. Still it could easily rank amongst one of the most neglected issues in our country despite. For beginners a hard core ground research in our communities revealed the following information about the status of awareness and the consequence.
More than 1 out of every 4 girls below the age of 15 are dropouts because of the menstrual cycles. They do not have access to clean and safe sanitary products.
Only 5 out of every 100 girls had some idea about menstruation.
The figures were alarming and it called for an immediate intervention.
The issue is deep rooted and is considered a taboo everywhere. We intend to break those shackles and the inhibitions of the girls. For this we need to catch them early and start the awareness sessions for them before the onset of puberty. We aspire to enable the school teachers of these girls who would be the local torchbearers of our fight against the issues surrounding menstruation. We have contacted Aditi Gupta, a well-known name in this field and the co-founder of Menstrupedia.com to provide comic books on menstruation. Since the illustrations are interesting and informative and our target group belongs to an age group of 10-15 years, these books would be perfect to talk about a sensitive issue in an interesting way. The books can be kept in libraries of schools and can be used by both the teacher at the time of counselling or by the students. We will also have expert awareness sessions for the students, teachers and the community members by experts from YP foundation based in New Delhi. These sessions would be focused around menstrual and sexual health amongst other related topics.
For more details:-
Our target group:-
We aim to reach out to a minimum of 300 people including students, teachers and the community members. Along with this we plan to make the Menstrupedia comic books available in the libraries of at least 20 government schools to maximize the impact that we want to create.
1) Sanitary pads - 1000 pads* 3= 3000 INR (Rs 3 per pad)
2) Menstrupedia comics - 100 books
105*100= 10500 INR (105 per book with shipping charges)
3) Workshops for girls - 5000 INR
4) Workshops for teachers - 3000 INR
5) Workshops of community members - 4500 INR
The Desired Impact:-
- Addressing the lack of knowledge on the menses health and hygiene for mothers and daughters
- The girls are able to come out of their inhibitions and the embarrassment and are confident to discuss about the issue with anybody
- They get aware of the pubertal changes in their bodies and start accepting and more importantly, respecting the change
- They start interacting with the counsellors rather than just listening to them in a conversation and begin to realize the fact that it is a natural phenomenon and every woman has to go through it
- Hitting the mindset of the society by introducing a book on a social taboo like menstruation into government schools. These would also help in further self-learning and can be passed on from one generation to another.
We are Nirali and Khushboo from Piramal Foundation for Education Leadership. We have been working with government schools of Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan since June 2015.Contact details:-
Khushboo- 9116002342, firstname.lastname@example.org