New Delhi: We live in a country where menstruation is still a taboo topic. Women still choose not to talk about menstruation, small girls either give up their education as soon as they hit puberty, or sit in a dark corner during that time of the month feeling that they are impure. A recent report shows that about 88% of menstruating women in India do not have access to sanitary products, and rely on unhygienic alternatives like pieces of rag, ash, sand and husk. As a result, 70% of women in India are prone to the risk of reproductive diseases.
Despite being a natural biological concept, just like urination or defecation, the discourse around menstruation either doesn’t exist or is mired in superstition and wrong practices, and that’s what affecting lives of women in India adversely. Moved by this grim reality, Sulochana Pednekar who is from a remote village of Siolim in Goa started a crusade to break the silence and debunk the common taboos revolving around menstruation in India that are hindering lives of so many girls and women.
#Myth1: A menstruating woman is impure, dirty or cursed
#Myth2: A menstruating woman should not enter the temple
#Myth3: A menstruating woman should not touch any utensils or person and should sit at one place
#Myth4: A menstruating woman should not talk about periods, the things they are using to tackle it and if they are using anything it should stay hidden from the world
#Myth5: A menstruating woman should ignore personal hygiene, taking a bath is not allowed during periods
I come from a remote village; I too was surrounded with all these myths. I suffered the same fate as many girls of India. During my menstruating days, I wasn’t allowed to move much, as my family followed all these traditional beliefs. Most of the days, I felt like a untouchable. I knew this is the story of every girl of my village, says Sulochana Pednekar who today goes out to every school and college of Goa, simply to break all these myths around menstruation and spread awareness and talk about the process of menstruation.
Explaining the idea of spreading awareness about menstrual hygiene and how it stuck her, Sulochana added,
“After completing my post graduation, I started working with an NGO. As part of my job, I interviewed more than 200 women from nine different villages of Goa. Many of them had one thing in common, they were all suffering from bacterial infection caused due to unhygienic practices during menstruation. I learnt that these women knew nothing about menstruation and were even afraid to talk about it. That’s when it triggered me that it is time we break social taboos related to menstruation and start spreading awareness among every girl and women of the society – it is their right.”
Sulochana goes on to add, seeing girls and women in my village hiding the fact that they are going through periods, hit me hard. They will just not speak up about it openly, they used code words like, ‘It’s my happy birthday’ or ‘A crow has touched me’. Moreover they didn’t know how to deal with menstruation, as a woman it is our right to know what is going on in our body.
With Education As Her Tool – Sulochana Pednekar Is Changing Lives
Initially Sulochana started going to schools, colleges and different villages of Goa, just to talk to people and make them aware about menstruation, today she is educating the masses through her inspirational videos where she brings in experts and together they educate masses about menstruation. In one of her latest videos, Sulochana, made girls from different religions talk about menstruation, what are the complications they faced, what kinds of myths surrounded them.
I make these videos so as people can relate with these stories, once they relate, they will understand the concept better. It’s like one of my tools, which I use when I go to different areas for spreading awareness, added Sulochana.
Currently, Sulochana Pednekar is a community correspondent at Video Volunteers that empowers community voices through video journalism, and works as an assistant professor at department of women’s studies in Goa University and is getting her PHD in Education, Gender sanitation and public policy in India. She is also researching on the statistics related to menstruation and girls leaving school as soon as they hit puberty.
From Menstrual Hygiene To Eco-friendly Sanitary Napkins
Sulochana like every other village girl used to depend on cloth pads, but, later when she got introduced to sanitary napkins and once she started using them, she was impressed by how it changed her life, but was disappointed to know that there is no treatment of sanitary waste in India.
Statistics suggest, every month, India produces more than 1 billion sanitary pads waste which ends up in city’s already dying landfills, along with all other kinds of waste. Sulochana in a bid to resolve this situation, thought of educating the masses about eco-friendly sanitary napkins.
Till now, Sulochana has changed lives of more than 2000 school girls and thousands of women in Goa by educating them about menstrual hygiene and by telling them about eco-friendly alternatives to sanitary napkins, and has been awarded the Zilla Mahila Samman 2014 for North Goa district fromMinistry of Women and Child Development, Government of India.
Looking at her efforts to educate women on Menstruation, she was also chosen as one of the four women from India for a video project on women’s issues.
What’s Next On The Agenda?
Speaking about the future plans, Sulochana said after she completes her PHD, she aims to make all educational institutes especially for all the menstruating girls with all the facilities so that there are no more school drop outs because of bad sanitation facilities.
I think, Menstrual Hygiene should be the part of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan movement, and it should be there in the curriculum. There is a need for learning and talking about issues that impact the health of the society and the environment, signs off Sulochana.