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2 European Girls Visiting India Learnt How Perceptions Around Periods Can Be Very Different

Posted: January 9, 2020

PraveenLata Sansthan held an event to bust myths related to menstruation in a village near Jaipur. Two European girls also attended it. This is their experience.

As many as 500 women attended an event conducted by PraveenLata Sansthan through the Spotless Dame’s Program. The event was held on Sunday, November 17, at Laxminarayanpura, a little village, to the north of Jaipur. Each woman who attended the event was given a pack of four pads, usable for the next five years.

My friend Gaby, from Netherlands, and I, Sonia, from France, attended the event. It was the first time either of us were a part of something like this.

The event and why it was important

The organisers needed as many as three months to organise the pads for distribution. Attendees came to the event through the village stakeholder’s communication. They made sure to have announcements of the event around the village and surrounding areas.

Thanks to the fundraising by Milaap.org, that the initiative got the fundings. Milaap is a non-profit by Vedant Agarwal, a student of Jaipur. He also volunteers for the PraveenLata Sansthan.

The packets of pads were made by girls employed by the PraveenLata Sansthan. Since their parents can’t afford to pay for their education, a number of these families live in extreme poverty. That is one of the reasons they work to earn money. They work in safe conditions with a secure social platform. This not only helps them generate an income but makes them feel empowered due to their impact on the society.

They are well-equipped with several professional skills including sewing and using a tailoring machine. With this kind of financial support, they are able to become independent and get social autonomy.

The event was in association to PraveenLata Sansthan’s MeraPad initiative. It is a social enterprise that aims to create an environmental and social change through revitalising menstrual practices. These practices are healthy, environmentally sustainable and culturally responsive and empowering.

Environmentally friendly pads, yes please!

The pads made here are eco-friendly. They are made with bamboo charcoal fabric that is free of antibiotics and harmful chemicals.

These pads are naturally anti-bacterial, deodorising and designed in such a manner that they prevent vaginal infections. What’s more is that they are reusable and biodegradable too!

This event did one more thing- with the distribution of these pads, as much as 650 kgs of sanitary plastic was prevented. India generates 9.46 million tons of plastic waste annually. Isn’t it time to think of sustainable and environmental ways to reduce the plastic waste?

Periods aren’t impure!

Before the distribution, some discussions were held around the topic of periods. Women were taught the biological process of menstruation, proper hygienic practices, how to use MeraPad and myths were dispelled. Women stayed silenced, pretty disconcerted but really attentive.

Speakers explained that periods are a natural concept and must not be considered impure. Thanks to the interactive diagram, girls and women understood easily the menstrual flow and the body anatomy.

Women were really pleased to be given a free pack of pads while they used to use cloths, tissues or even leaves during periods. Some houses cannot afford hygienic protections which are rare in supermarkets or pharmacies and remain expensive. The founder of the NGO, Bharti Singh Chauhan, set the goal to create awareness around menstruation hygiene management. Her other goal is break the silence around the topic of menstruation.

Busting myths is necessary!

The biggest problem with periods is the misconception and the myths surrounding it. We spoke to two women who attended the event and asked them their perceptions of periods and were stunned by their response.

While their families are supportive during the menstruation period, they are still not allowed to cook or even touch the food. Their entire body and even mind are considered impure. They aren’t even allowed to sleep in the bedroom and some times are made to sleep outside the house

These beliefs have the risk of being perpetuated by the elders of the family on to the children. That is exactly why education and these kind of events are fundamental in the comprehension of periods. Girls and boys need to understand that it is neither impure nor dirty. In fact, it is a natural process that takes place every once a month in the life of every girl.

The new generation, however, seems a little more aware of menstruation and are interested in preventing the myths from spreading. In the picture above, the girls came to the event with their family. While they do not face any particular problems and are stay confident during their periods, they find it important that the society be aware.

Perceptions of periods in your country

Says Gaby, “Most of the women would not be able to relate with me when it comes to periods. It was during this event that I learnt that a lot of women don’t even know what a period is.

On the other hand, in the Netherlands, we learn about periods in a number of ways. We get educated about it at school, our parents tell us about it. And with the internet, we have easy access to the web and magazines.

I was surprised to know that a number of women had already had their period for more than 30 years without really knowing what was happening in their bodies. Plus, the fact that they stayed outside their houses during periods and had nothing to protect themselves just stunned me! All this simply because of the taboos which lead them to believe that it is dirty or wrong.

For me, the event in the village was really eye-opening. The power of the people, NGO, volunteers and most of all the woman themselves was incredible to see. Their willingness to learn was amazing and I think it will only increase within time. Education is key and because of it we can break taboos about periods!

In my country, girls and women are aware of menstruation. Schools teach sexual education from different aspects from the youngest age. Adolescents need to know the body and its functions for a better understanding of life.

I was first surprised when I spoke to a 35 year old Indian woman, mother of a young girl. She admitted to me that she never heard about tampons. In France, it is really common and most of the girls know how to use them since their firsts periods. I think a better awareness about periods should be held at school as well as at home.”

Why the event was a ray of hope

I realised that most of the period misconceptions in India are related to religion and myths. In my point of view, it sounds almost unreal that a woman is not allowed to enter in a temple during her menstruation period.

But during the whole event, I was really thrilled so see all these women and their girls attending the event. Some even walked ten kilometres just to attend it.

Even men were really committed with the subject. It seemed like every taboo about periods was pushed back. Women and girls in India are keen to extend the pads protection and help in stopping the clichés and beliefs around periods.

Picture credits: Provided by the author

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French student in Political Science. Currently doing a gap year. I am focusing on women'

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