Almost started in 2014, working closely with young girls of Udaipur district in northern Indian state of Rajasthan. As part of Women and Child Development Program of Seva Mandir, Non for Profit Organization in Udaipur started working to address myths about menstruation and the hygiene related issues of young girls. This young girls whom worked with mainly belongs to tribal community called ‘Mina’. Alike, many parts of India and other countries, in rural Rajasthan the myth that menstruation makes a woman impure prevalent strongly. Without realizing hidden hazards of unhygienic practices girls used to dry the cloth of the period at the places, where nobody can see it. That turn out to be filthy and hazardous places including finishing walls of the house.
In rural areas woman cannot afford sanitary napkins. In such cases woman uses piece of cloth or nothing that further causes Gynecological problems or infections leading to cervical cancer. “Following my interest and curiosity, after the trainings I used to talk with young girls on their menstrual practices. I get to know that after periods get over, they stores the cloth under ‘Keloo’ or plates covered on mud house. I was horrified with the thought about the cloth for an entire month, waiting for the next cycle. Full of creepy insects and stingy smell. The moment I decided to talk with the young girls that periods is natural process like other body processes. Later, it slowly started to bring behavioral changes.” Says Jyoti Rajput. Specially for those girls, who used to hide their cloth of periods under ‘Keloo’ plates covered on mud house Sanitary Napkin making workshop was organized. Girls who participated shared their opinion on session that it was helpful as sanitary napkin was affordable, clean and easy to use.
Lot of young girls drop out from the school around the time of puberty, or not allowed to attend school. Generally, advised to stay at home and be quiet and reserved. At the end, this affects their growth and damages their self-image. And also, school going girls have to struggle with adequate privacy and sanitation of toilets. Further, make them vulnerable to mental, emotional and physical problems especially during their menstrual days. Sometimes also reported to stay absent from school during menstruation. Such ignorance develops misconceptions at the later stage. Insufficiently acknowledged girls and women end up believing and propagating myths about menstruation, that leads to vicious cycle. After interaction strongly feel the need to break this barriers and educate girls, women and even men about menstruation. This is the key in liberating women across the world.
In rural areas adolescents girls generally do not get adequate advice and guidance regarding menstrual hygiene from their parents or any known person. Menstrual hygiene is an issue that is insufficiently acknowledged. Wrong information leads to health related complications and also decreases girl’s confidence. Young girls and their opinion about our work is the main motivation to keep moving our work. After the training, girl named Akansha (age 16) come closure and said, “Didi, We like to stay here and talk with you. I cannot talk freely regarding our personal issues at home as I do here with you.”
Small talk depicts bitter truth of society. Even at home menstruation is not a topic for discussion. Harsh but true reality of our society, that is still attached with stigmatized and vulnerable old beliefs.
Initial interaction with girls and women from more than 61 villages in the Udaipur district, it was very evident that there was minimal knowledge on menstruation. But horrified mind had strong conviction to bring the behavioral changes among young girls. Though, having very little conversation on this issue in open platforms. Mainly included as part of interaction with young girls. It is really sad to realized myths and misconception among girls. Which mainly lead to inappropriate practices and affect their health. Stigma associated with menstruation reinforces lower status of women in India, Jyoti Decided to work on spreading awareness among young girls regarding menstrual and reproductive health. “Young girls should not be bound with the limitation of bleeding, they should set free from such existing stigma.” Jyoti Says.
Seva Mandir believes that there is an end to this barriers of stigma around menstruation. Only if everyone is able to clear the misconceptions about this natural process like other body processes. During one of the Adolescent Trainings by Seva Mandir – a girl Lakhsmi Meena, (age 18), came across and said, ‘Young girls have to do household chores. She has to finish the homework and also need to attend the school. Like we feel thirsty and hungry we bleed red once a month.‘ She further added, ‘We do not have choice to be free from the restrictions of the society, But we have choice to be free from our limits. Until we ourselves will not accept our body and love it. Nobody else can break this entire chain.’ When she started drawing experiences of her at the training she draw menstruation cycle. Among girls it was really an surprising and inspiring action. Lakhsmi assertively proved her point. Following her many girls motivated to draw menstrual cycle.
Whenever, talked about menstruation to the girls, sometimes, there was pin-drop silence. Sometimes because they don’t know about the topic and sometimes uncomfortable with the topic being discussed in public. However, our engagement with them mainly focused to engage them to the content and ease down their fear to participate.
With this work, including workshops, trainings, discussions, one to one interactions and counseling impacted the lives of 400 young girls so far. But it does not mean that work stops here. Convictions are high that aspires about to create the world where there are no menstrual stigma and girls can live healthy and shame-free life.
For the past three years, Jyoti Rajput is fighting against this stigma of menstruation among the young girls of southern Rajasthan. Even in the rural geographical tyranny, She has been continuously working on capacity building of young girls to address myths about menstruation and hygiene related issues. After completing her M. A. in Social Work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Jyoti is now affiliated with Seva Mandir as program associate (women & child development). She has strong conviction to work for the needs of disadvantaged women including backward, downtrodden and people with Disabilities.