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  • The Late Bloomer!

    Every young girl goes through puberty, experiencing a range of physical and emotional changes. How she and those around her handle these changes, especially menstruation, plays a crucial role in shaping her confidence. The way menstruation is treated and its long-lasting impact requires serious introspection. The story of a girl named Raakhi made me reconsider how we treat menstruation and why this needs to change immediately. Raakhi was a spirited young girl surrounded by a close-knit group of friends. While all her friends smoothly transitioned into womanhood with the onset of menstruation, Raakhi found herself in a peculiar situation; despite being the same age, she had yet to experience her first period. At school, the girls often whispered about their menstrual cycles, sharing stories of cramps, mood swings, and the mysteries of womanhood. Raakhi, however, remained silent, feeling like an outsider in conversations she couldn’t participate in. As weeks turned into months, Raakhi became increasingly anxious about her delayed menstruation. She couldn’t confide in her friends, fearing their reactions or, worse, their pity. Menstruation seemed shrouded in secrecy and embarrassment, a taboo subject that no one dared to discuss openly. One day, Raakhi learned about an awareness camp on menstruation to be conducted in a nearby colony. She wanted to attend but faced two major challenges. First, she needed permission from her mother, and second, even if she got the permission, she had to find a way to avoid public scrutiny. After several sleepless nights devising plans, Raakhi decided to ask permission to visit a friend and attend the camp along the way. Usually comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt, she chose to wear a salwar suit and dupatta, using the dupatta to cover her face. With determination, Raakhi attended the awareness camp and was relieved to learn that the onset of menstruation can happen at different ages for different girls, with any age between 8 and 16 being normal for menarche. She also learned other important information about menstruation, which empowered her. Returning from the camp, Raakhi felt no longer sorry, under-confident, or confused about her body. Instead, she was happy and determined to share the information about menstruation with every girl she knew. She realized the immense impact such knowledge could have and was set on spreading this awareness so that no other 'late bloomer' would experience what she had gone through. Raakhi understood there was no shame in being a late bloomer and that her journey to womanhood was uniquely her own. Determined to break the silence surrounding menstruation, Raakhi took action. With the support of her friends and teachers, she organized workshops and seminars to educate students about menstruation, breaking down taboos and dispelling myths. Raakhi hoped that awareness, acceptance, and empathy would create a culture where menstruation is no longer a taboo topic but rather a normal part of life. Raakhi decided that when she finally got her first period, she would celebrate not only the physical milestone but also the impact she would have in challenging societal norms and promoting menstrual health awareness. Her journey empowered her and sparked a movement of change, one that would ripple through generations to come.

  • Sanitary Waste: What a Bloody Mess!

    Menstruation is a natural biological process experienced by billions of people worldwide. Yet, alongside the monthly cycle comes a less discussed but significant environmental issue: menstrual product waste. The disposal of menstrual products poses a huge challenge, contributing to pollution, environmental degradation, and public health concerns. As awareness of environmental issues grows, it's time to confront this "bloody mess" and explore sustainable solutions. You may question as to what's the big deal with sanitary waste? Well, it's not just about tossing out used pads and tampons. There's a whole bunch of environmental, health, and social challenges wrapped up in there. The Scale of the Issue is Huge The scale of menstrual product waste is staggering. It's estimated that a single menstruator will use around 5,000 to 15,000 sanitary pads or tampons in their lifetime. When multiplied by the global population of menstruating individuals, the environmental impact becomes evident. Add to this the packaging and plastic wrappers, and the problem intensifies further. Environmental Impact Most conventional menstrual products are made of – plastic, plastic, and more plastic. And plastic takes hundreds of years to decompose, contributing to the ever-growing burden of plastic pollution. So, when you flush them down the toilet or toss them in the trash, they end up clogging sewage systems or sitting in landfills for centuries, polluting our environment big time. On top of that, the production of these items requires vast amounts of resources, including water, energy, and raw materials, exacerbating environmental strain. Public Health Concerns Beyond environmental implications, menstrual product waste poses public health risks. Discarded products can harbor bacteria and pathogens, contaminating soil and water sources. This contamination may lead to the spread of diseases and pose risks to both human and animal populations. Furthermore, the chemicals present in some menstrual products, such as dioxins and phthalates, can leach into the environment, potentially disrupting ecosystems and harming wildlife. The Need for Sustainable Solutions Addressing menstrual product waste requires a multifaceted approach. One crucial aspect is raising awareness and education about sustainable alternatives. Menstrual cups, reusable cloth pads, and period underwear are gaining popularity as eco-friendly options. These products not only reduce waste but also offer cost savings over time. Government policies play a vital role in promoting sustainability. Implementing regulations on product labeling, encouraging manufacturers to use biodegradable materials, and providing subsidies for eco-friendly alternatives can incentivize change within the industry. Innovations in product design and materials are also essential. The silver lining is that companies are exploring plant-based materials, compostable options, and reusable packaging to minimize environmental impact throughout a product’s lifecycle. Empowering Change I think the game changer could be when individuals start making conscious choices. By switching to reusable menstrual products, properly disposing of waste, and advocating for sustainable practices, they can contribute to mitigating the menstrual product waste crisis. Education and destigmatization are equally crucial. Open conversations about menstruation and its environmental impact can break down taboos and encourage widespread adoption of sustainable solutions. More research into biodegradable materials for menstrual products would really make a dent in this problem. And let's not forget about policy changes. Governments need to do their bit and promote sustainable menstrual hygiene management through incentives and support for waste management initiatives.

  • Do you really know your periods?

    It’s amazing how little most women know about their periods, despite it being a monthly affair. Just imagine, on an average, a woman spends seven years of her life menstruating. That's surely a big chunk of her life! It all begins with what we call – menarche or the onset of menstruation, usually between ages 9 and 12 for healthy girls. A regular monthly period is actually like a gold star of good health for women. It's nature's way of giving a high-five to your reproductive system, saying, "You go, girl!" One of the most fascinating facts about a woman’s body is that all women are born with all the eggs they'll ever have. Yes, a woman doesn’t produce any eggs during her lifetime but is born with millions of tiny human potentials. These tiny potential humans, called oocytes, hang out in the ovaries, nestled in cozy follicles. So right at birth, it's like a mega egg stock, with around 4 million eggs in the inventory. But as life goes on, the numbers start dwindling, dropping to a more modest 1 to 2 million by puberty. Every month a woman looses about 10,000 eggs and by the time she reaches puberty, she’s left with 300,000 to 400,000 eggs. It's a staggering revelation, isn't it? The menstrual cycle is like a perfectly orchestrated symphony within a woman's reproductive system, playing out every month. The star of the show? Ovulation! This is when an egg leaves the ovaries and takes a stroll down the fallopian tube, hoping to find a sperm. If Cupid's arrow hits its mark and the egg does find a sperm and gets fertilized, it sets up shop in the uterine lining, ready to start its journey to becoming a human life. If not, it's like a breakup, and the uterine lining decides to make a dramatic exit, leading to menstrual blood! What we need to understand here is that this whole menstrual cycle isn't just a one-week wonder. It's a month-long extravaganza! Think of it like a four-act play: Act 1: The Menstrual Phase, where the uterus decides to clean house and throws a party with some light bleeding. Act 2: The Follicular Phase, where the ovaries start prepping the next egg and the uterine lining fluffs up like a cozy pillow. Act 3: Ovulation, the superstar moment where an egg takes center stage, ready for its close-up. Act 4: The Luteal Phase, where the body preps for potential baby-making, but if it doesn't happen, it's like, "Okay, let's try this again next month!" And let's not forget the bookends of this whole cycle: puberty, when the fun begins around age 13, and menopause, when the curtain closes around age 52. It's like a rollercoaster ride of hormones and surprises, but hey, that's what makes being a woman so wonderfully unique!

  • It’s Time We Normalised Period Stains

    I have yet to encounter a woman who hasn't experienced anxiety related to period stains during menstruation. The constant need to check for any spotting is an integral part of the menstruation experience. I wonder if there's any girl who has never faced a period stain! Not to my knowledge. Is there really a problem with having a period stain? Not inherently. The problem lies in the shame associated with being exposed about one's period. It's when somebody whispers in your ear, "Hey, you've got a stain on your dress," or "Hey, there's a stain on your skirt. Here, take my jacket and wrap it around your waist to cover it." Why should a stain from a normal bodily function be associated with shame and embarrassment? Why must it be looked at disgustingly? The shame associated with period stains often begins when a girl gets her first period and is advised by her mother not to talk about it to anyone and to keep it a secret. I remember once I was out for a work meeting, and as I was leaving the office building, someone at the reception asked me if I was on my period. Then, she pointed out the stain on my clothes. I was completely devastated and angry with myself for not being careful enough! I immediately called for a cab, rushed home to shower. The shower was more to wash away the feeling of shame and embarrassment rather than the stain! Surely, every girl has had a similar experience and has felt the same shame, embarrassment, or anger. Why can't we just normalize period stains? Why do girls have to be ashamed of something biological and completely natural? Why must women live in fear of leakage? Why must boys in schools laugh at girls when they have a period stain? Shouldn't boys at school be educated about this natural phenomenon and be sensitised to it so that their laughter doesn't deepen the feeling of shame and embarrassment in girls but instead makes it seem like a normal part of life? The fear of period stains is a symptom of a larger societal issue. By promoting open discussions, educating individuals about menstrual health, and challenging the taboos surrounding menstruation, we can create a world where women no longer have to live in constant fear of a natural and vital aspect of their lives. It's time to embrace menstruation as a normal and healthy part of being a woman, free from the constraints of shame and embarrassment. Let's talk openly about periods. It's time to accept that periods are a normal part of every girl's life and that there's no secrecy surrounding them. Let's normalise period stains. Period.

  • Roadblocks to Menstrual Hygiene in India

    Menstrual hygiene is a human right. Yet it remains a pressing issue in India, despite various initiatives and growing awareness. While progress has been made, several roadblocks hinder access to proper menstrual hygiene management for women across the country. Understanding these challenges is crucial to devising effective solutions and ensuring every woman can manage her menstruation safely and with dignity. What are the roadblocks? Lack of Education and Awareness: One of the primary obstacles is the lack of education about menstruation. Cultural taboos, societal norms, and inadequate educational curriculums contribute to a pervasive silence surrounding menstrual health. This leads to myths, misconceptions, and shame associated with periods, preventing open discussions and access to accurate information. Inadequate Sanitation Facilities: Access to clean and private sanitation facilities remains a significant challenge, especially in rural areas. Many schools, public spaces, and households lack proper toilets or facilities equipped to support menstrual hygiene. This lack of infrastructure forces many women and girls to resort to unsafe alternatives like using unhygienic materials or skipping school or work during menstruation. Affordability and Accessibility of Menstrual Products: The cost and accessibility of menstrual products pose significant barriers, particularly for marginalized communities. Sanitary pads, tampons, or menstrual cups are often unaffordable for many women. Additionally, in remote areas, these products may not be readily available, forcing women to rely on unsanitary alternatives that compromise their health. Stigma and Cultural Norms: Deep-rooted cultural beliefs and stigma surrounding menstruation persist in many parts of India. Menstruating women are often considered impure, leading to exclusion from religious practices, social gatherings, or even familial activities. This discrimination perpetuates feelings of shame and embarrassment, discouraging open conversations and perpetuating unsafe menstrual practices. Limited Policy Implementation and Healthcare Support: While there have been efforts to implement policies supporting menstrual hygiene, their effective execution remains a challenge. Inadequate allocation of resources, lack of monitoring mechanisms, and insufficient healthcare infrastructure hinder the proper implementation of programs aimed at improving menstrual health. To address these roadblocks, concerted efforts are needed at various levels such as: Comprehensive Education Programs: Implementing inclusive and accurate menstrual health education in schools and communities can challenge taboos and myths, fostering a more supportive environment for menstruating individuals. Improved Sanitation Facilities: Investing in better sanitation infrastructure in schools, public places, and households, especially in rural areas, is crucial. Access to clean and private toilets equipped with disposal facilities for menstrual products is essential. Affordable and Accessible Menstrual Products: Initiatives to subsidize or provide free menstrual products, along with decentralized distribution networks, can ensure affordability and accessibility, particularly in remote regions. Cultural Sensitization and Awareness Campaigns: Engaging with local communities through awareness campaigns that challenge stigma and cultural norms surrounding menstruation is vital. This involves involving community leaders, influencers, and grassroots organizations to drive meaningful change. Policy Reforms and Implementation: Strengthening policies related to menstrual hygiene and ensuring their effective implementation through adequate funding, monitoring, and evaluation mechanisms are critical steps toward sustainable change. Breaking barriers to menstrual hygiene in India require a multifaceted approach involving education, infrastructure development, cultural sensitivity, and policy reforms. By addressing these challenges holistically, India can progress towards ensuring menstrual hygiene is a right accessible to all, fostering dignity, health, and empowerment for women and girls across the nation.

  • The Burden of Silence Around Menstruation: Munni’s journey

    Munni was born into a well-off family as the youngest of four siblings, lived a happy and playful childhood. At the age of 14, while playing, she felt something dripping between her legs. She was embarrassed, thinking she had peed. Her mind was still trying to figure out what was happening when she saw blood dripping down her legs. Confused, she rushed to the washroom. She couldn’t find any injuries on her thighs. Ignorant of one of the most normal biological occurrences in a woman’s body, Munni started imagining various things. She stayed in the washroom, fearing that perhaps no one would talk to or accept her now. Munni stayed a bit longer in the washroom, hoping the blood flow would stop. Every time she thought it had stopped and tried to step outside, she bled again.  Maybe God has punished her for playing with the boys, she thought. She begged God for forgiveness! After some time, Munni stopped bleeding, feeling that God heard her prayer. She ran back inside her house, locked herself in a room, and sat in a corner to process all that had happened. She felt the drip again. This time she couldn't hold her tears and started crying inconsolably. Seeing her cry, Munni’s mother and sister-in-law ran towards her. When Munni’s mother saw Munni’s blood-stained skirt, she knew what had happened. Munni’s sister-in-law burst into laughter and explained to Munni about this monthly biological condition that every woman experiences. Munni was given a piece of cloth, some cotton, and the burden of silence around menstruation was passed on to her. For the next seven days, Munni became a showpiece in her own house, spending her days sitting mostly in one place. Her brothers made fun of her for being lazy, but her mother didn’t bother to intervene or make them understand about menstruation. Her mother’s silence had a long-lasting impact on Munni’s way of dealing with menstruation. During her menstrual years in her paternal home, instead of taking help from her mother or sister-in-law, she herself managed her menstruation by using cotton from a quilt or any piece of cloth that she thought no one would miss. For the next three years, Munni managed her menstrual blood flow in the ways she could think of. At 17, Munni married and faced a new environment where her sister-in-law reinforced myths and taboos about menstruation. Conditioned by the silence she had grown up with, Munni followed these practices unquestioningly. One of the reasons Munni blindly followed whatever she was told at her in-laws' house is because 'Silence around Menstruation' is what she had seen and experienced, so she presumed that that’s the way to deal with it. ‘Silence around Menstruation’ had such an impact on Munni’s life that she never talked about it, not with her husband, nor with her daughter that she gave birth to later in life. Munni's perspective changed when she joined the 'Sustainable Health Enterprise' project by Sulabh Sanitation Mission Foundation. Munni who is now 50 years old, shared her story about carrying the burden of ‘Silence around Menstruation’ that was passed on to her by her mother when she attended the ‘Sustainable Health Enterprise’ run by Sulabh Sanitation Mission Foundation, supported by Hitachi India Pvt Limited, for making menstruation a topic to be discussed with openness. Munni happily shared her story without any shyness and thanks the project for helping her get rid of the burden she had been carrying on for years. Munni ended her story saying that her real victory would be the day she would openly tell her husband that she was menstruating and not use lies such as saying that she was unwell. She hopes that the ongoing project would definitely give her that courage.

  • Breaking the Chains of Myth: Anandi's Journey to Menstrual Empowerment

    Anandi lives in Daryapur, a small village of Haryana. She is a bright-eyed, curious soul, who grew up in a community that held tightly onto age-old myths and traditions. Little did she know that these myths would shape her perception of menstruation and impact her mentally, emotionally, and physically. Anandi's upbringing was steeped in traditions that dictated the role of women in society. As she approached adolescence, whispers of mysterious tales surrounding menstruation filled the air. Anandi's elders spoke in hushed tones about the sacredness and secrecy surrounding a girl's monthly cycle, weaving myths that portrayed menstruation as both a blessing and a curse. According to the myths, a girl's first menstruation marked her entry into womanhood, an event filled with mystical significance. The village believed that a girl, during her periods, possessed an otherworldly energy, connecting her to ancient goddesses. However, this sacred connection came at a price – the seclusion of menstruating women from daily life. They were considered impure during these days and were expected to distance themselves from the community. Anandi's first period arrived, and with it came a mix of fear and awe. Her mother, a staunch believer in the myths, approached the situation with a sense of duty rather than compassion. Anandi was ushered into a small, dimly lit room, away from the laughter of her siblings and friends. The isolation, coupled with the mysterious myths, began to gnaw at her young mind. As the years passed, the myths continued to shape Anandi's perception of her own body. She internalized the notion that menstruation was a hidden, shameful secret, instilling a sense of embarrassment and impurity. The weight of the myths bore down on her mental well-being, impacting her self-esteem and confidence. Anandi's emotional journey was no less tumultuous. The secrecy surrounding menstruation created a sense of isolation, making her feel like an outcast during her monthly cycle. The shame associated with a natural bodily function affected her relationships, making her hesitant to share her experiences with friends or seek support. Physically, the myths took a toll on Anandi's health. The lack of proper education about menstruation led to harmful practices, as she adhered to age-old taboos that forbade her from using sanitary products. Anandi endured discomfort and health risks, all in the name of tradition. However, things did change. Anandi's village was gradually opening up to modern ideas and education. A group of activists, armed with knowledge and empathy, began conducting awareness programs to dispel the myths surrounding menstruation. Anandi, eager to break free from the shackles of tradition, attended one such program. The knowledge she gained opened her eyes to the reality of menstruation – a natural, biological process devoid of mysticism or impurity. Anandi became an advocate for change in her village, challenging the age-old beliefs that had bound her for so long. With newfound confidence, she spoke openly about menstruation, encouraging other girls to embrace their bodies without shame. Anandi’s journey from a girl entangled in myths to a young woman breaking free from societal constraints became an inspiration for many in her village. Slowly, the walls of ignorance crumbled, replaced by a foundation of understanding and acceptance. The myths that had once weighed heavily on Anandi's shoulders were replaced by a newfound sense of empowerment and pride in her identity as a woman.

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