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In India, numerous myths and taboos surround periods despite them being a normal body function. The silence and shame around menstruation make girls live with pain and fear and they hardly seek help when in physical or mental discomfort. This affects the girls’ psychological and physical development and hinders their progress. As per a BMJ journal study, 1 in 4 girls in India miss school during their periods due to lack of water/hygiene facilities in school toilets, fear of staining, and social norms, which eventually leads to increased dropouts. Once they drop out of school, girls are often pushed into marriage at an early age leading to a permanent loss of potential.
Some of the common myths and taboos that impact the lives of girls are -
· Women are impure during periods and should not enter the kitchen or other sacred places.
· Menstruating women are not allowed to take baths, especially for the first few days of the period.
· Women on periods can’t touch plants or they’ll die.
· They are not allowed to touch the pickle jar when on periods else it will get spoilt.
· A mere touch of a menstruating woman has the power to wilt flowers and make food spoil.
· Using pads while on period makes women infertile as pads are man-made to control women's fertility.
It’s high time we set our girls free from all these myths and taboos and let them chase their dreams. Open conversations about menstruation, especially with adolescent girls is the need of the hour to end period shame.
Nandini is one such individual who came forward to have these conversations. An adolescent girl herself, she is an inspiration to other young girls in her community because of her willpower and desire to succeed.
Nandini eagerly participated in all sessions held by one of CRY's projects in Andhra Pradesh to educate herself on periods and understand period-related concerns. She was ready to step out of her comfort zone and ask questions that most girls her age would find difficult.
Many girls in Nandini’s village missed school during their periods. Even Nandini's family first refused to give her permission to go to school, but that did not stop her. She set an amazing example to her peers by going to school during her periods. She started awareness campaigns with other adolescent girls in the neighbourhood with the help and direction of CRY and its partner. She emphasised the fact that periods are a natural occurrence and shouldn't interfere with learning. She educated them on myths, proper use of pads, how frequently to change pads, what can cause infection if good hygiene is not practised, and how to prevent anaemia during periods by eating a diet high in iron and protein. It was through Nandini's perseverance, other girls in the village began going to school during their periods.
We share Nandini's desire for more people to understand that periods are natural and not to be feared or stigmatised. Join us in our effort to end period shame by raising awareness and improving the support system for our adolescent girls. Your contribution will enable them to realise their full potential and have a gratifying effect on their lives. Donate to CRY today!