As a 12-year-old, when I had my first period, my access to use commercially available sanitary napkins were limited as they were expensive. I lived in a big city with working parents, yet I was allowed only one napkin a day for my school and while at home I had to use a cloth rag. The cloth rag was supposed to be hand washed and, it could not be sun-dried as it had to be hidden away from male members of the family.
My school toilet had no proper facilities to dispose of used sanitary towels. Therefore, I stopped playing sports and cycling to school during my periods as I was afraid, I might stain my clothes and will not have a place to change my sanitary pad. By the time I returned home from school, I was uncomfortable as my napkin was damp, and I did not have spares. In India menstruation is the second primary reason, after household work, for girls to miss school1.
In a patriarchal society like India, it is still a taboo to discuss menstruation openly. Menstruating women are often excluded from social and religious events and refused admission into temples and worship places. Sometimes women are even kept out of kitchens. Millions of girls, women, transgender men and non-binary persons cannot manage their menstrual cycle in a dignified, healthy way. Factors such as gender inequality, discriminatory social standards, cultural taboos, poverty and the lack of essential services like toilets or running water results in girls’ and women’s menstrual well-being and hygiene being compromised.
From a teenager to a mum of two girls, my struggles with menstrual stigma lead me to read and research more about the topic. I have been restricted from eating certain foods, visiting certain places, and even participating in sporting activity. My idea was to create an online space that will address period related taboos and try to provide information about menstrual hygiene management (MHM). This website is called “I bleed” because I would like to break the taboos around menstruation through my experience and learning. Menstruation is a personal process, women should not be made to feel bad or stigmatised about it. It’s ok to “bleed” in the physical sense. Still, my website highlights the emotional trauma (that period related stigma causes) in which women “bleed” in India psychologically. Poor menstrual health is associated with lack of knowledge, resources, and poverty2. Read on to learn more the menstrual hygiene management issues in India.
- Effect of menstruation on girls and their schooling, and facilitators of menstrual hygiene management in schools: surveys in government schools in three states in India, 2015 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6286883/)
- Menstrual hygiene and health – a call for dignity, rights and empowerment (https://www.who.int/pmnch/media/news/2020/menstrual_hygiene_health/en/)