Menstruation is exclusive to women, but has always been surrounded by taboos and myths. The restrictions that exist in the society about menstruation have a huge impact on girls’/women’s health and well-being. The low knowledge levels and understanding of the women about puberty, menstruation and reproductive health makes it an even bigger challenge to address.
More than 77% of menstruating girls in India use an old cloth, which is often reused.
Over 23% of girls in India drop out of school when they begin menstruating.
88% of women in India opt to use ashes, newspapers, dried leaves and husk sand to aid absorption.
Culturally in many parts of India, menstruation is still thought of as filthy and impure. Many girls and women are subject to restrictions in their daily lives merely because they are menstruating. Not entering the “puja” room and kitchen during menstruation is a common restriction among both urban and rural girls. Some believe that during menstruation the body emits specific smells, which turns preserved food bad, and hence are they not allowed to touch sour foods like pickles. In some cultures, women bury their cloths used during menstruation to avoid them being used by ‘evil spirits’. In Hinduism, bodily secretions/excretions are understood to be polluting, just as the bodies when producing them. These are just a few examples of the many myths regarding menstruation in India. It is still worse in rural settings.
It is high time that we question such beliefs and start viewing it as a natural bodily function just like emptying the bowel or bladder. In an effort to do the same, the Sphoorthi girls have initiated awareness sessions, “All about menstruation”, together with sharing information about anemia. These sessions are made informative by using videos in the local language followed by interactive sessions with girls who have newly joined the Sphoorthi Project.
With the intention of imparting knowledge to adolescent girls and even older women, this initiative has proved to be very beneficial. It has opened up channels for girls to start talking about menstruation out loud as opposed to the secrecy that they maintained around it earlier.
Such a controversial and hushed-up topic is now being acknowledged as healthy, natural and normal due to efforts like those made by Sphoorthi girls. It is particularly moving for us because the Sphoorthi girls have broken all the barriers of shyness, embarrassment and the feeling of being ‘impure’ and are coming forward to educate and sensitize other women (and we hope also men in the future) to build a scientific perception towards menstruation and menstrual hygiene.
We salute these silent warriors!
Here are the links of the videos used by the girls:
(Menstrual hygiene) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0ORa46xK6M
(Fight anemia) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oC18zVt-DRw
(Hemoglobin Test) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHvge9Fs4Cg
(Mythri video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gli7V2t_voI