Stuti Kulkarni, a 16 year old young Volunteer in Martha Farrell Foundation talks about the stigma associated with periods.
“Period blood is the only blood that is not shed from violence,
Yet it is still the one that disgusts you the most.
This World Menstrual Hygiene Day, let’s shed some light on the stigma around menstruation and its effects on girls and women.
Once a girl turns 12, “I’m down” and “chums” become phrases she encounters once every month. But let’s question the very necessity of these words. It’s a natural process, just like urination. So why are we, as girls and women, made to feel ashamed or dirty because of a completely natural biological process? The shame extends to deprivation of many of our basic needs and rights. In many parts of India, girls are still denied their basic necessities because of their menstrual cycles. They aren’t allowed to touch people, eat the same food, go to school or work, and sometimes, they aren’t even allowed to bathe or use the bathroom!
Personally, I’ve dealt with a lot of ignorance regarding my own menstrual cycle. I’ve been asked to ‘sit-out’, which essentially means not touching anyone, not eating the same food as the rest of the family, and sleeping on the floor. I was shocked when I realised that this was coming from an educated family member, so it got me thinking about people who come from not so privileged backgrounds. Even in school I have been taught to not talk about periods in an ‘explicit’ manner because it would make the boys uncomfortable. I’ve been excluded from extended family events because I was on my period. Apart from the social exclusion, there are also economic barriers to a safe and hygienic menstruation. There are people who cannot afford sanitary products nor have access to clean bathrooms. There is also a great lack of basic awareness of hygiene amongst women themselves regardless of their backgrounds.
It is our duty as women to fight for the comfort, health and security of our sisters. Let’s normalise the use of the word ‘periods’, because you’d never see someone making code words for urination. We need to raise awareness in so that women won’t suffer during exhausting, stressful and painful times. We need to fight and make sanitary products economically available because not everyone can afford them. We need to normalise menstruation, and focus on the importance of menstrual hygiene because nobody deserves to suffer for a natural phenomenon.
I am fortunate to have been brought up in an environment where these conversations could happen and be in a school with clean bathrooms. We need to make sure all girls and women have basic facilities like a clean toilet and access to sanitary pads. A safe, clean and comfortable period, shouldn’t be much to ask for, right?