As we Indians are on this fast pace of progression, to move on from being a developing to a developed nation and with the women being more educated as an integral part of workforce. But then till date most of the educated women actually feel too shy or embarrassed to talk about their periods and related health issues confidently and openly. In fact most of the women prefer to hide this one of most important truth about themselves and not reveal or discuss some most crucial concerns related to their health and hygiene associated with irregular and erratic periods, with most of the men, inclusive of male doctor and that too almost throughout their life.
Yes for how long will our girls and women in India will shy off from talking about their periods and that too with most of the educated boys and men and then keep suffering from various health problems and above that keep bearing the embarrassment of all the various stereotypes and the humiliation of being bullied by fellow boys.
Apart from the above if, we look deeper into the lives of our uneducated women and girls or those belonging to rural or other backward areas, then the problem is much more chronic, as per the facts mentioned below:
• As per UNICEF only 16% of girls use sanitary napkins during their periods!
• UNICEF says, 28% of the students in India do not go to the school during their periods!
• Of the women using cloth as absorbents, half of them use same cloth more than a month.
• 75% of the girls do not have any idea about what material to use to absorb the flow.
• Lack of facilities and appropriate sanitary products can push menstruating girls out of school
• Most of the girls students are bullied by the boys for carrying pads in their bags.
To overcome this major gap and to create a just society, where our girls and women have a complete understanding of this most natural process, which they go through every month and most importantly how to take care of themselves during periods by:
- Being confident enough to talk freely and avoid the taboos around periods.
- Ask for and seek help from both fellow women and also men.
- Have an understanding of the benefits of using sanitary pads in place of cloth during periods.
- Have an access to sanitary pads and should not shy off from availing this facility.
- Overcome the pressures and suffering of various taboos and stereotypes.
- Adopt to Healthy and Stress free ways of undergoing Periods.
- Boys and men understand the pain of periods and pledge to be more respectful towards the girls and women of the society
- Boys and men come forward to help and facilitate girls and women to undergo their periods safely and in a healthy way.
- Mother understand the value to share their talks about periods with their boys
To achieve the above mentioned objectives, we on behalf of Prasanchetas Foundation came up with this Mission Pad Girls, where we are:
- Spreading the Mass Awareness by educating and sensitizing the adolescent boys and girls, youth, teachers, mothers on the very crucial aspects of Menstrual Hygiene Management
- Sensitizing and involving active participation by mothers so that they can guide their children more responsibly.
- Imbibing within the girls and women, the need of be healthy and hygienic.
- Free sanitary napkin distribution to girls and women across from humble backgrounds in the outskirt areas around Tricity Chandigarh inclusive of Burail, Khuda Ali Sher, Dhanas, Kaimbvala etc.
The task is definitely more challenging specially to introduce to the boys with a topic, which is till date, not openly discussed even with the girls. To overcome some of the major barriers of inhibition, embarrassment and humiliation of any sort, separate sessions are conducted for girls and boys. To facilitate the young boys and make them more inquisitive to pay attention and be sensitive to the pain of periods, we correlate the process of periods with the reality of human birth and boys themselves coming into this world. The process of menstrual cycle is explained in detail to the boys, so as to promote complete knowledge and better understanding.
After the detailed explanation of all the biological developmental processes happening in the bodies of boys and girls independently, the boys seem to be more confident, respectful and sensitive towards the special needs of both genders and more willing to be supportive and well behaved with the girls. To further boost these feelings of mutual respect and care towards the girls, the boys are narrated the real life story of Mr. Arunachalam Murugnanatham, who brought about the sanitary pad revolution and mastered the indigenous technique of producing low-cost sanitary pads.
In the girls’ sessions apart from detailed explanation of the menstrual cycle, related process, facts, myths, taboos, the girls are primarily educated on the ways to take care of themselves during the menstruation. Clarify one’s doubts about periods, seek guidance from mother or speak to some other elderly women. The girls are specially invoked to either use sanitary napkins or properly washed and sun dried cloth to control the bleeding and avoid staining of clothes during periods.
The girls are also explained that it is normal to have irregular periods in the start as it takes time for body to adapt to new hormones. Irregular periods for a new beginner varying from 22 to 34 days are normal. The girls are also explained that, not having periods even uptil the age of 15 to 16 is normal but beyond this age, the girls must visit the doctor. The girls are also made to introspect that if anyone of them, feels like eating mitti, chalk or scrape wall- it means they are deficient in iron for which they should consume the iron tablets which are made available in schools and should include iron rich food in their diet, like banana, apple, spinach, black chana, etc. and also one should have lots of water especially during periods.
Girls are made to understand that feeling tired or pain during the periods is normal which can be reduced or overcome by having nutritious food or diet along with practicing healthy lifestyle inclusive of some special exercises and yoga asanas, which our facilitators also demonstrate and make the girls practice during our sessions.
Apart from the adolescent and youth girls and boys, we also sensitize the mothers and teachers to be more rationale in their approach and towards their crucial role in educating and sensitizing their children i.e. helping their girls to face periods more confidently and without much trouble and further inculcate sense of awareness, sensibility, understanding and respect for the opposite gender amongst their boys.
Some of the revolutionary changes witnessed after our sessions are:
1. Girls have become more regular at school and all together more confident in life.
2. Most of the girls have developed the habit of using sanitary pads and have stopped missing school during periods.
3. Boys seem to have developed a strong sense of respect and responsibility towards and majority of them have taken a pledge to come forward for the health and safety of girls.
4. Boys have stopped teasing or bullying the girls specially for the cause of periods.
5. Many college going boys have become part of the Mission Pad Girls and wholeheartedly coming forward to educate and simultaneously distribute sanitary napkins to the girls.
6. Many uneducated and illiterate mothers have also come out of their stereotypes and are now a crucial part of mission pad girls to educate and sensitize their girls and boys respectively.
7. Many school and college Teachers and Principals have associated with Mission Pad Girls as the Missionaries to further promote and create Mass Awareness of this Mission.