I am a daughter of the land that worships Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth

I am a girl born in a country that worships Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom,

I am a woman, born in the land of Durga, the goddess of strength,

I am the most beautiful creation of god, the mortal resemblance of goddesses you have been worshipping since birth,

The creator, the nurturer and the sustainer of human being since time innumerable. But in those days, when I am in my periods, I am in pain, I bleed my vaginas  My menstruation becomes a taboo of our so called society.

 Many of us across India struggle to manage this monthly occurrence.. A large majority of us are made to consider our bodies as impure/unclean during the time of menstruation. We are prohibited from going into temples, mosques, and gurudwaras and we are not even supposed to touch any holy book nor any utensils or even pickles.

Hello man, I am your same own daughter, sister, wife, mother to whom you turns your face off, you look at us at disgust, all of sudden I turn into disgrace, untouchable and impure and something you ashamed off

Alas, soon after five days you give me permission to enter my own house until then I become the watchman of your house, now I am back to kitchen and temple visits, as if I have washed myself with bleach and acid and I become pure again for everyone, 

Why such double standards, why such hypocrisy

Dear society, Once a month, women bleed from their vaginas for a week in a natural biological dance that signifies – “Hey, no baby for you this Time!” Simple? Well, Yes. But over the decades, people have been incredibly innovative in interpreting what it could mean instead. At some time or the other we have all experienced discrimination, segregation and bizarre rituals based on period bias.  Oh my! Can’t a woman bleed in peace?

“Talking about menstruation has been a taboo even among planners. It received the attention of the Ministry of Health only in 2011. Close to 70% per cent of Indian women risk getting severe infection, at times causing death, due to poverty, ignorance and shame attached to their menstruation cycle”. This is something of a euphemism. It’s one of several non-descriptive terms used by many in India when talking about menstruation, sanitary products and female health, evoking a stigma that colors discussions of the issue The statistics are stark and dismal: 88% of girls and women who menstruate use unsafe materials; 66% of girls are unaware of menstruation before their first period; 70% mothers think periods are dirty; 66% girls and women manage periods without toilets.  The stigma has created an environment that stymies female growth. While on their period, many women are prohibited from daily activities like visiting temples and cooking. Even in major cities, the discomfort around menstruation is evident in the fact that stores wrap sanitary napkins in newspaper or brown paper bags for customers. In rural areas, those who cannot buy or afford sanitary products resort to using rags and ashes girls often skip school because there are no bathrooms to change in. According to one report published in 2015, 23% of girls drop out of school when they reach puberty; another found that 40% of schools don’t have separate female toilets. The silence and shame around the menstrual cycle has caused severe problems for girls. In a survey conducted in 2011, it was revealed that in north India, over 30% of the girls interviewed dropped out of school after they start menstruating. Reproductive tract infections (RTI) were 70% more common among women who were unable to maintain hygiene during their menstrual cycle. This kind of cultural neglect of menstrual hygiene is reflected in policies as well because a larger number of adolescent girls (between 12-18 years of age) miss five days of school due to lack of toilets for girls.

The question here arises how we, handle a normal physiological event that  is hugely complex, influenced by socio-cultural norms and the larger political environment that shape how girls experience their periods, what they can do while menstruating, what they can use to absorb menstrual blood and how they dispose the material, whether and from whom they can seek information and help, and even whether they stay in school or not. A  girl faces obstacles in managing her menses in a healthy way, she is at risk for infection, her selfesteemand self-confidence suffer, she may remain absent from school during her period, or worse still, drop out of school altogether upon reaching puberty. Over time, these negative effects add up, preventing a young girl from achieving her full potential and having a healthy, productive life. 

So what are we, as professionals, doing to help girls have healthy and safe periods?

“A woman on her period is normal. Let her eat what she likes, let her sleep where she wants, let her have (consensual happy) period sex because frankly, that is rather phenomenal. Let her buy feminine hygiene products that don’t need to be first wrapped in newspaper and then encased in black plastic bags as to hide the shame of the monthly hormone monster. Let’s kill the period taboo. Bleed in peace, women.

“Pretending it never happened, doesn’t make it go away. When we don’t talk about it, we miss the signs that need attention. What is perfectly normal becomes a big deal and women quietly acquire low self-esteem for what is natural.”

Menstruation matters to our girls, to our women and it should matter to everyone, everywhere. We experience it and we shape its experience. As influencers, development professionals, and policy makers, we must take action now. Period.

I hope now my PAHELI is open and understandable to everyone reading it.  My dear it is in your hand how you solve it…


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