Let’s Talk About Periods!
When the bunch of young girls came to know that the session was about “Menstruation”, a kind of disgust waved on their faces. And that remained our very first challenge to encounter along with the existing queued challenges. Even after learning the chapter on “Reproduction” in their syllabus, it still remains a taboo topic to talk about. Periods- A very natural biological phenomena experienced by girls and women as a sign of their reproductive life. So, why the topic is dealt with secret and embarrassment? Do we realize that most of our body functions are misunderstood? And that makes a huge impact on girls and women all over the world.
Being a delicate young group, we first tried to create a safe and comfortable space for them to talk about menstruation. Our session with these young girls is on “Menstrual Health Management” which aims to ensure that girls are able to manage their menstruation hygienically and comfortably. During the initial session, our major focus is on breaking their silence and replacing it with a space for a conversation on “Periods”. Among the two batches of girls, with batch 1 from classes 7 & 8 and batch 2 from 5 & 6, batch 1 is all-time curious and wants to know about periods and generally about women’s health and hygiene; Batch 2 rather posed a challenge. They were really curious to know things but not about periods mostly and they had more stigmas towards this subject. It is because most of them had not hit puberty and hence they saw this session as a mere time kill.
The session started with sharing our own life experience on our “First Periods” by sitting in concentric circles, which brought an effective interaction. These stories helped us in setting up of context for the session. We realized that their first-period experiences brought out the fear they had while going through it without having any awareness about it and also came across few girls whose mothers were really supportive and had taught about this beforehand. We then addressed the changes that occur in one’s body during puberty and help them feel comfortable with their own body during this important phase in their life. Girls were really open and accepting towards the change happening in their bodies.
The explanation of the biological process of the menstrual cycle, about why and how the period occurs helped us in communicating the language of our body. The discussion continued by addressing white discharge and when to know that it’s abnormal and may indicate an infection. Also, the symptoms that occur before periods called the PMS or Pre Menstrual Syndrome and the related remedies to follow were discussed. During this session, girls openly shared all of the symptoms they face, and watching them feel empathetic for each other even when all had different symptoms was beautiful.
By the time we had our second session with girls, we could see a slight improvement in terms of interest and stigma. A girl who rolled her eyes and expressed disgust last time was actually asking doubts regarding symptoms of PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome), which was the evidence for our effort taken. The hygiene practices to be followed were discussed and reinforced through activities. Anything delivered through an activity was a big hit! An elaborate session on the available menstrual products discussing everything from what it is, how to use it, where to get it, how much it costs to the proper disposal methods. They were fascinated to see and to know that there are alternative menstrual products available other than the sanitary napkins also. When asked to pen down their doubts and hand them over to me, I was awed at their creative minds and curiosity which led them to ask so many questions.
There still remain two more sessions to go and of which will be facilitated by one of these girls themselves after they undergo peer capacity building training. We are eagerly looking forward to it with much more energy to match their levels of enthusiasm. LET’S CONTINUE TO TALK ABOUT PERIODS!
P.S: I really would like to extend my gratitude to Ram and Regila from Vidhya Vidhai Foundation for introducing me to the school management and for continuously encouraging me. I would also like to thank Mr. Ramesh sir, Mrs. Victoria mam, and the entire school management for their constant support.
Sarumati currently is working on building deep and meaningful connections with self, community, and nature by exploring and offering workshop spaces for handwritten letters, sustainability, wild plants and it’s natural benefits while being an ardent vocalist for menstrual rights