See A Girl With A Stain? On Having Periods While Travelling

Posted: May 28, 2016

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Having periods while travelling can be stressful, with few conveniences in India, but as women, we can help and empower each other.

Even after so many years, the five days of every month are the ones I least look forward to. It is especially during those five days that I feel that we women have been dealt a raw deal…..

At a tender age of twelve and thirteen, girls have to deal with periods, bear abdominal pain and be a little alert while boys of the same age go about running and having all the fun…all the time!

We do learn to live with it since a young age but if tomorrow someone gives us an option of exchanging one thing with men, I am sure many of us would want to exchange those five days.

Where are the toilets?

It is still manageable to tackle all associated discomforts when we are in the safe environs of our homes but having periods while travelling is so tiresome and inconvenient. On road, the basic problems such as lack of toilet facility at regular intervals, water supply and cleanliness create more inconvenience.

Most times women have to wait for a decent restaurant or shopping area or a petrol pump with restroom facility. Even on normal days, using such wayside restrooms seems unhygienic and uncomfortable due to lack of water and general cleanliness. The government run ‘Sulabha Shauchalayas’ are few in numbers and those too are mostly unmanned and unhygienic such that the chances of infection are pretty high.

Even the train journey does not help in easing the inconvenience caused due to periods while travelling. Most train toilets are also not clean enough and coupled with the jerks and jolts of a moving train, the travel during menstruation becomes more inconvenient.

The physical stress on the female body may at times upset the regular cycle and the period may start when we are least expecting it and most unprepared. The biggest fear for many girls and women is of the accidental stain on the clothes which becomes an issue of embarrassment.

Still such a hush-hush thing!

A decade or so ago, women planned their travel in between two cycles to avoid such inconveniences and taboos during functions and festivals. If travel was unavoidable, they would resort to taking pills and manage dates of the next cycle.

Though much has changed with availability of better products to deal with periods, in our country, periods are such a taboo topic that when women shop for sanitary pads, the shopkeeper shies away and discreetly packs the packet in a newspaper sheet before handing it over to the woman across the counter. Due to such an attitude, we cannot expect our trains or buses to have emergency kits for women if they happen to start their periods while travelling.

Having periods, while travelling, is most stressful to young girls. Apart from dealing with the messiness, the back and abdominal pains and lethargic feeling they have to understand the new changes in their body and the sudden carefulness that is thrust on their young minds. They are confused and travelling during such a situation scares them as well.

And it is scarier for young girls whose mothers have shied away from preparing them for this inevitable development in their teen years especially if they are travelling to relatives’ places and have to face taboos of not entering the prayer room or not touching the food items. They may wonder if it was something wrong they did that they were treated this way.

We need to encourage our daughters and other young relatives not to feel embarrassed if period stains do happen. A lot of the embarrassment is also because this is such a taboo topic. We need to encourage them (and ourselves) to regard it as a fact of life, and an accident that may happen, but need not make us feel ashamed.

Even though the inconveniences of having periods during travelling stay the same…..the scarcity of clean toilets, the availability of water, the pains and that feeling of lost freedom, but nowadays women especially those who work outside the home, find it difficult to wriggle out of situations where travel is mandatory. Plus, on longer journeys, it is simply not possible to plan them to avoid your period dates (and even more so, for those who have irregular periods and can’t really predict them).

And while we women debate and take to the roads to fight against the stigma attached to periods, lets us all on 28th May, the World Menstrual Hygiene Day, promise to prepare our young daughters for these days, make them mentally strong to take over the challenges of having periods even while travelling with a smile on their face…let us set them free of all taboos and most of all help each other in trains, buses and public places.

Girl with a scarf image via Shutterstock

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