20 March, 2020

Breaking free from yesterday’s taboos

The Tata Trusts' Menstrual Hygiene Management programme enables women to accept menstruation as 'normal'

Menstruation has always been stigmatised across India and is considered a taboo. It has been clouded in misconceptions that have perpetuated over generations. Girl after girl has found their period to be abnormal, scary and impure, making them feel shameful, undeserving and dirty. Girls are still discreet about periods, fighting a lonely battle, within themselves because there is no one to talk to.

Especially in Indian villages, where the girl is handed a laundry list of “things not to do from now on”. In this scenario, it was extremely difficult to get the women to step out of their houses, leave alone talk about periods.

The Tata Trusts, on understanding the importance of teaching women safe practices of menstruation that directly impacts their health and well-being, took an imperative step towards curtailing myths around women hygiene and care through Menstrual Health Management (MHM).

Women discuss freely only amongst themselves, therefore, to reach every woman, 5 Community Resource Persons (CRPs), under a Cluster Anchor were trained. These CRPs created their multiple groups of adolescent girls and women, and formed a community of 15-20 participants. These communities act as close-knit extended families to women, explaining to them the importance of menstruation and breaking the shackles of the existing myths and taboos. As part of a mass awareness and engagement campaign, a menstruation mela was conducted, wherein women consulted the gynaecologist, got information about different absorbents while actively engaging in fun activities like bracelet making, etc., all geared towards driving home the message that menstruation is not taboo and that safe practices lead to healthy living.   

Ms. Kajal Vala, a CRP, conducted her first training and helped women in Kadodara village in Gujarat to  realise the importance of menstrual management. She acted as a catalyst of change, encouraging many other women to come forward and support the initiative.

One of the members, Harshita, gauged the sensitivity of the subject during her tuition classes. Recollecting a few incidents, where girls were behaving in an odd manner  and not attending classes, Harshita realised that she could contribute by sharing her knowledge with many young girls who come for tuition with her, and she too became a part of the initiative.

Today, about 70% of the women in the village have adopted hygienic practices recommended during the MHM sessions and most women have also understood the reason behind the myths and taboos. They are able to go to work without thinking twice about any infection or any leakage. The initiative has reached  50,000 women till March 2019.

Over time, women have started accepting Menstruation  as ‘normal’.

This story has been taken from the Sir Ratan Tata Trust and Allied Trusts Annual Report 2019-20