A schoolgirl once stained her uniform whilst on her period. The boys in her class looked on and laughed. She laughed too, at how very naive they were…
Menstrual blood is typically the only source of blood that isn’t induced traumatically. Why then is it such a sensitive issue in a society like ours where child abuse is talked about freely but god forbid someone brings up menstruation during conversation! We live in a country deeply rooted in ignorance and superstition. Young girls across India lack the support they need when they reach this crucial stage in their lives. In most homes, mothers are unable to address menstruation related queries and in schools, the teachers shy away from doing so. This led CRY, an organization that provides child relief and support, to take up the initiative to spread awareness at the grass root level last year.
It all started with a workshop conducted in Mumbai last year, for the volunteers who were to conduct awareness sessions across Mumbai and Pune to break the menstruation taboo. They were taught how to tackle sensitive issues like these with young adolescents who are found to have the most impressionable minds. Sessions were then conducted by the volunteers for about 350 girls between the ages 10 – 14 at several locations including Thane, Kalyan, Navi Mumbai and Pune. Initially, the girls were hesitant and taken aback with the volunteers’ outright frankness but during the course of the sessions, they shed their inhibitions and started communicating their opinions and doubts quite freely.
In addition to menstruation, the sessions combed through a variety of subjects including puberty and bodily growth, how to use sanitary napkins, sexual intercourse, STI’s and nutrition. Another important issue discussed in detail with the girls was – safe and unsafe touch. One in every two children in India is a victim of child sexual abuse and thus children have to be taught how to handle such grave situations. The questions that arose were concrete and it provided a platform for the girls to express themselves. “Why don’t boys get pregnant?” “What are condoms?” “Are we really not supposed to touch a pickle jar when we’re menstruating?”-some asked. Needless to say, several myths were busted and the girls ran up to the volunteers, thanking them profusely for addressing their queries, which are otherwise left unnoticed and unanswered in their schools and homes.
All the effort put in during the course of 3 months, translated into success for the children and more so for the volunteers who were thrilled to have made a difference in the lives of so many children. One of the girls, a 5th grader, expressed her gratitude and said, “Before this we had no idea about this subject. This was a helpful session. They explained to us the changes that take place in our body and how we should take care of our personal hygiene. This was a beneficial session and we are thankful to the team.” – Asmita, student , 6th standard, Kalyan municipal school
“The experience was great, we could easily share our concerns with the volunteers from CRY as we look up to them as our elder sisters and feel comfortable talking about such things more than we do with our parents.” – student of 7th std, Thane municipal school
Menstruation session was conducted which targeted girls from 5th to 7th grade. The session began with brief up on puberty and the physical changes that they will undergo. They were also updated about the difference in physical changes that a boy and a girl experience. This brought the discussion to one major difference of girls experiencing thier periods in this stage. The girls were told that periods are not reason to panic and is a sign of healthy body and it’s preparedness for motherhood in future. We then explained the menstruation cycle, the frequency and duration of periods. They were also shown video of uterus illustrating the cycle. We explained the kids about symptoms on which they should consult a doctor like excessive bleeding for more than 5 days, unduly delay in their next cycle. The discussion then moved to sanitary pads, personal hygiene and disposal of used pads. We encouraged the girls to carry their usual activities even in periods while ensuring that they maintain personal hygiene and eat nutritious food. During the entire training session pictures and videos were used. A video on puberty, reproductive system and an animated video on menstruation talk was used.
Towards end of the session safe and unsafe touch was covered. The girls were encouraged to speak up if they face any situation of misbehaviour or unsafe touch either by stranger or known person. It was emphasized that they should not be afraid, ashamed or blame themselves for such incidents.
Janani, CRY Volunteer, Mumbai
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