Menstruation is a natural, biological process experienced by women across genders and sexualities for the most part of their lives. However, women are still deprived or sometimes denied the right to manage their monthly menstrual cycles in a dignified and healthy way. Gender inequality, poverty, discriminatory social norms, cultural taboos and lack of basic services prevent women from accessing menstrual hygiene products as a result of which their health is severely affected.
In India and in many parts of the world, women face harassment and discrimination when they are menstruating. Even within the household space, they are forced to remain excluded for those days of the month. Transgender men and non-binary persons who menstruate often face discrimination due to the gender identity that prevents them from accessing the materials and facilities that they need. There are still very prevalent concepts of purity and pollution associated with this biological process which shouldn’t be used to discriminate women in this 21st century. All of this has far-reaching negative impacts on the lives of those who menstruate: restricting their mobility, freedom and choices; affecting attendance and participation in school and community life; compromising their safety; and causing stress and anxiety.
According to the UNICEF Guidance on Menstrual Health and Hygiene 2019, “menstrual health builds on this concept and encompasses the broader impacts of the psychological, socio-political and
environmental factors that accompany menstruation on mental, physical, and emotional health.”
Across the world, governmental as well as non-governmental organisations have been working to address issues like period poverty and sustainable forms of menstrual hygiene products. The latter is a relatively new concept which has been spurred by a concern towards the environment and the ecological impacts of using traditional non-biodegradable sanitary napkins. While there is a need to move towards sustainable and eco-friendly products, accessibility and affordability still remain a crucial issue for a country like India. Period poverty is another aspect which has garnered attention. It refers to circumstances that make menstruation a difficult experience for women, due to various factors like homelessness, coercive, controlling and violent relationships and health conditions such as endometriosis. Period poverty also encompasses the larger idea of the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets and waste management.
Spread Love And Peace (SLAP) is an Assam based youth-led and run collective working for their development, leadership and community building. We have been working in multiple regions of India from time to time providing services, gearing up campaigns and engaging the
youths towards a socio-civic role. As a collective, we have conducted programmes to increase awareness regarding sexual and menstrual health in some of the Tier-3 towns of northeast India. There is still a lot of shame and stigma associated with such topics, especially among the elder population but the youth has been proactive enough to give an ear to our campaigns and resonate with the same. We have had our programmes in schools and on social media, and we are also aiming to conduct workshops once the crisis of COVID-19 has passed. SLAP has been asking for stories of menarche from young people. This is an attempt to know about their experiences of their first period. The stories are shared with the hashtag #myfirstperiod. With all the amazing responses, we have been able to gather numerous stories until now. The campaign is still up and running so if you want to share your story of menarche, you can write shoot us an email at email@example.com.
Moreover, with the COVID 19 outbreak, we have been seeing news around the lack of availability of menstrual health products. So we have decided to gather funds through Milaap and donate it across India which will go towards the procurement and distribution of sanitary napkins. To share your part, you can reach out on +91 8011387561, or mail us on firstname.lastname@example.org You will also find all of our campaigns on our Instagram and Facebook handles.
Written by: Udipto Phukon,
Content and Critic Head,
Spread Love And Peace (SLAP)