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Paint It Red: Let’s Address Menstrual Health As A Real Roadblock To Entrepreneurship!

Paint It Red aims to help those who menstruate make real, empowered choices and realise their full potential without being restricted by their bodies.

When I first got my period, I was completely unprepared. I had never been formally taught about menstruation at school nor had it been addressed openly at home, and the only information I had was what my friends had told me – which was half-baked and incomplete. So when I started bleeding for the first time two weeks after my friend’s explanation, I was convinced that my newfound knowledge had somehow cursed me and resulted in me having periods, which are hard even for adult menstruators to appreciate as a sign of growth and maturity, let alone for a ten year old with only misconceptions about the topic.

I remember hiding my period from my mother for the initial two days when the bleeding was minimal, too embarrassed to tell her what was happening to my body and hoping it would just go away if I didn’t acknowledge it wholeheartedly.

Looking back on that experience, I realise how much I needed to be educated about my own body, and how much shame and stigma surrounds menstruation in our society.

Sadly, my experience is far from unique

Millions of women, girls and others who bleed in India lack body literacy and access to menstrual products, leading to a range of health problems such as infections, PCOS and infertility. In not only rural but also urban spaces periods are still viewed as a taboo subject, and menstruators are shamed, ostracised, and excluded from participating in daily activities.

It’s been over two decades since I had my first period, and yet the memories of those first few days still linger. As a young girl, I didn’t have access to the menstrual education that I needed. I was left to navigate this fundamental aspect of my life on my own, without any guidance or support. It wasn’t until years later that I realised the full impact of my experience.

When menstrual health becomes a barrier to entrepreneurship

While working on a rural project in Rajasthan, India, I designed a tool to identify the barriers to the entrepreneurial potential of women. One surprising finding was that menstrual health was a major challenge for many women in the region. These challenges are particularly acute for marginalised communities, such as rural women from oppressed communities, refugees, people with disabilities, and those living in poverty.

It was then that I realised the power of menstruation education and how it could impact lives. This was when it became bigger than my own experience at ten years old, it grew to be about understanding the challenges of others like me across India.

Over the years, I continued to work on menstrual health initiatives. I designed menstrual health interventions for inmates in jails and worked with refugees, where I heard stories of how periods were largely taboo in many other Asian communities as well. By the time I reached my late 20s, I knew I wanted to do more to promote menstruation education and to ensure that no child felt as scared and unprepared as I did when I got my first period. So, I decided to take on the role of Co-founder at Paint It Red.

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Who are we at Paint it Red?

Our mission is simple – we want to break the silence around menstruation and create a world where all individuals have access to the knowledge and resources they need to manage their periods with dignity and without shame. Through education and advocacy, we hope to empower people to take control of their bodies and make informed choices about their health.

At Paint It Red, we have been able to make a difference in the lives of young and experienced menstruators. We have worked across 10 states and served over 22,000 people, partnering with schools, local governments, and NGOs to provide menstrual health education and distribute thousands of period products to those who need them most.

Paint it Red is making a real difference

Through our work, we have seen firsthand the impact of menstrual health education and access to period products. We have heard from young girls who feel more confident and empowered to talk about their periods, and from women who are able to participate more fully in society without fear of shame or embarrassment. But most of all, our work has taught me that change is possible. Every time we have a conversation about menstruation, every time we provide someone with period education, every time we distribute a period product, we are taking a step towards a more equitable and just world for all menstruators. And that is something worth fighting for.

Looking back on my journey, I am grateful for the experiences that led me to where I am today. My own struggles with body literacy and the challenges faced by so many women around the world have inspired me to make a difference in my own small way. And while there is still much work to be done, I am proud to be leading an organisation that at its core truly cares.

Find Paint it Red here.

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About the Author

Niharika Sharma

A strong development and management professional with a passion for gender justice, diversity, inclusion and holistic mental health. She is the Co-founder of Paint It Red, an NGO dedicated to eradicating period poverty in read more...

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