Menstruation is still a taboo in India, while Muheem, in Varanasi, wants to initiate and normalize the conversation around menstruation.
Menstruation is a natural, biological phenomenon that occurs in women and girls and yet across the nation, there is still an element of apprehensiveness and shame associated with menstruation. People associate menstruation with impurity, bad blood, and disgust, which is why women feel discomfort, and embarrassed to talk about periods.
To eliminate the confusion and embarrassment linked with periods, an organisation in Varanasi, Muheem, Ek Sarthak Prayas, was founded in March 2017.
“Girls talked about a lot of issues, but the minute they hear about menstruation, they would have their neck down,” said Ram Kinkar from Muheem. When Muheem was founded, the idea was to initiate communication and discussion around menstruation. They create awareness among women about menstruation. Muheem also gives sessions wherein they talk about busting myths, menstruation health, and hygiene associated with periods.
“Our intention is to train them to make sanitary pads. This pad is such that they do not have to buy anything. This pad can be made at home if you are know sewing,” said Swati from Muheem. In India, only 58% of women aged between 15 to 24 uses sanitary pads. Many girls are confused when they start menstruating. Lack of awareness and preparation makes this a difficult experience. Young girls and women are asked not to play with children, not to go out, sleep in a wooden plank, and not to be involved in any religious rituals. In rural areas, girls are completely deprived of crucial information regarding menstrual hygiene. The shame and stigma associated with menstruating women and girls, alienate them, making the gender gap between men and women more assertive.
With Muheem, Swati and Ram not only try to provide sanitary pads in rural areas, but they also want to make the resources available to them. In meetings and training, they encourage women to talk, and discuss menstruation, by reciting poems, singing songs, while they make their own sanitary pads.
“There should be a healthy environment so that a mother doesn’t hesitate to talk to her daughter, and a brother doesn’t hesitate to talk to his sister,” added Swati.
Video made by Community Correspondent Shabnam Begum
Article by Grace Jolliffe, a Member of VV Editorial Team