“Ever since I was a toddler, society has been asking me not to ‘sit like that’, not to ‘talk like that’ and to ‘behave like a girl’ which then evolved to ‘don’t enter the temple’, ‘hide your pad,’ when I started menstruating. And because I’d been hearing these phrases since I was a kid, I believed them. I wouldn’t enter the temple on my period dates and made sure my pads were wrapped in a brown bag from the pharmacy.
But as I grew older and read about women like Malala and Michelle Obama, I gained perspective. I realised that I’d been conditioned. It got me thinking… If me, a girl who came from a privileged background was victim to a stigma attached to something as natural as menstruation, what would the struggle of girls from other segments of society be?
That thought stayed with me. I spoke to friends, researched and came across The Period Society, a cause dedicated to breaking the ‘Period Stigma’. I began volunteering and over time, they asked if I’d like to run The Period Society’s Mumbai chapter.
I was ecstatic; I was getting the chance to raise my voice for something I believed in! So the other volunteers and I started going to slums, holding sensitization meetings, understanding sanitary needs and helping women with menstrual supplies.
Since we were a bunch of teenage girls, at times, we weren’t taken seriously.
Once, a group of older women who used cloth while menstruating, asked us to go home and not waste their time. Another time, during a discussion with sex workers, when we suggested they use pads, they laughed at us.
There were times when our efforts seemed futile, but when I saw a little girl, peeking from behind a door and smiling at us, I knew we had to go on…for that little girl and the other little girls of our country.
And after about 5 sensitization meetings, we’d successfully donated 3800 pads and 50 women started using them regularly! That’s been my biggest victory so far.
So even during the lockdown, I contributed as much as I could. I reached out to maids and housekeeping staff in my society. When I told them about the importance of moving to pads, one lady, whose husband was suffering from cancer, said something that moved me– ‘aapke liye zarurat hai, humare liye luxury hai(What is a necessity for you is luxury for us)’ I realised, I didn’t always need to step out to make an impact– I held a pad donation drive in my own society. That day, the same lady looked at me gratefully and said, ‘thank you, ma’am.’
I know it will take some time trying to break the taboo, but I’m ready to do what it takes. I want to see a day where every girl in India has access to menstrual supply without it being considered a ‘luxury’, where they can attend Durga Pooja, their own celebration while bleeding, where they truly believe that it’s the most natural process of life. We bleed and we are beautiful. Period.”
Cross-posted from Humans of Bombay.