In India, discrimination against menstruating women is still rampant. Periods and everything related to it has always been spoken about in hushed tones. Women still get excluded from social events, banned from kitchens, and denied entry into religious places if they’re on their periods.
Given the lack of conversation and widespread taboo around periods, not many girls are aware of menstrual health and hygiene. And the difficulty in accessing a basic sanitary napkin does not help. According to a study, only 36 percent of Indian women use sanitary napkins, while the rest still use old rags, leaves, ash, mud, etc to manage their period. In fact, the COVID-19 lockdown gave rise to a bigger crisis because of lack of production and supply of sanitary pads. Mobility restrictions, school shutdowns, and closing of community sanitation facilities hit women hard, especially in rural areas.
Discussing women’s reproductive health in the open is considered almost impolite in India. However, the use of social media in recent years has encouraged women to talk openly. When Zomato recently announced its decision to grant women and transgender people 10 days of period leave, it sparked a huge debate online. While many women expressed concerns about deepening the gender bias at work, others remained hopeful that the move will normalise the period conversation.
That’s a huge step forward from when women would hide their sanitary napkins or feel ashamed to discuss their period. Today, even well-known celebrities are taking a stand to spread awareness about menstrual health. Here are a few of them that you should know about.
The Indian actress, UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador, and UN Secretary Generals SDGs Advocate, Dia Mirza has always been open about the need for menstrual health awareness and eco-friendly sanitary alternatives. She recently took part in the Red Dot Challenge – a sign that girls should not shy away from talking about periods. She said, “Not only do we need to put a period on shaming the period, but we must also ensure we switch to using sustainable products that protect our health and the health of the environment.”
Sonam Kapoor Ahuja
The Bollywood actress has spoken at length on menstrual health and hygiene. Her film Pad Man also revolved around the subject – a man who worked towards spreading awareness and access to sanitary napkins. She is very open about the fact that periods need to be normalised. Recently, she even took to her Instagram saying, “Better late than never” to appreciate Zomato’s period leave move.
The Delhi-based actress is known for not mincing words and being vocal about several issues, including menstrual health as well as the stigma attached to it. Last year, she joined hands with a Mumbai-based NGO to help educate young girls and women from the slums. She has always believed that women need to speak about their menstrual health – the more we talk, the fewer health hazards we’ll see.
The Bengaluru hudugi of Sacred Games fame has been known to speak out openly about her views on menstrual health. She often takes to social media to spread awareness about it. She recently joined hands with Humans for Humanity for their Red Cloth campaign, which was all about breaking the stigma. Sait believes that the conversation must start at an elementary level.
The versatile actor recently took to social media for the ‘It’s just a period’ campaign to create awareness about menstrual health and curb the whole stigma that exists around it. He wrote, “Over two million girls will get their first periods during this lockdown. Don’t make them go through this alone. Talk to them and tell them – periods are normal, natural, and nothing to feel embarrassed about. This #WorldMenstrualHygieneDay, I choose to end the taboo and whispers associated with periods and talk openly about it. Because, after all, #ItsJustAPeriod.”’
Over 2 million girls will get their first periods during this lockdown. Don’t make them go through this alone. Talk to them and tell them - Periods are normal, natural and nothing to feel embarrassed about. This #WorldMenstrualHygieneDay, I choose to end the taboo and whispers associated with periods and talk openly about it. Because, after all, #ItsJustAPeriod If you believe Periods are normal and the taboos surrounding them should end, share a post with a picture like this, tag @stayfreeindia and use #ItsJustAPeriod. Let’s stand together and normalize Periods, because every voice matters.
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India’s badminton champion has time and again been vocal about periods and women’s reproductive health. On World Menstrual Hygiene Day this year, Sindhu recalled her first period – she was at a training centre when she got it. So, she just borrowed a pad from a senior and continued practising. The current number two in the World Women’s Singles urged young girls to not let something as normal as periods come in the way of their dreams.
(Edited by Kanishk Singh)