‘Stain the Stigma’ is an initiative by the Final Year students of the Department of Communicative English, St. Teresa’s College(Autonomous), Ernakulam. The campaign aims at removing various social stigmas and taboos around Menstruation along with educating the general public about Menstrual Hygiene.
“Do not wear white clothes, do not enter the kitchen, do not get into the temple , don’t run , don’t jump”. Without any more questions and clarifications, it is very evident that the individual who is being instructed here is a woman and it is her ‘that time of the month’. ‘That time of the month’ , again a usage that is testament to the fact that euphemism still rules when the topic under conversation is Menstruation. A recent study conducted by Clue,a Menstrual Cycle Tracking Application and The International Women’s Health Coalition found that more than 5000 slang terms and euphemism exist for the word Menstruation. ‘Aunt Flow’, ‘Shark Week’, ‘the time of the month’, ‘Blood Mary’,etc are some of the most commonly used code words for periods. Though periods is nothing but a natural bodily process of women, it is still seen as something that should be whispered about and not talked about in public. Something that men should not even get to know.
In India only 80% menstruating women have access to sanitary pads. Many women, especially the underprivileged section and those belonging to rural parts of the country, still use rags, dry leaves and straw in place of sanitary pads. This also results in various reproductive tract infections and diseases among women some of which could prove to be fatal. One out of five girl students in India drop out of school after the onset of menstruation. This is a clear indication of how traumatizing the onset of menstruation could be for some women in India. Societal taboos and lack of awareness have given rise to many misconceptions regarding menstruation. Even today there are girls who feel they are dying when they first see those red spots. Such is the extent of misconceptions prevalent in our society regarding menstruation.
Through the campaign we aim at removing such misconceptions and taboos regarding menstruation along with highlighting the importance of menstrual hygiene. We believe changes should begin at the grass root level.
So, as part of the campaign, awareness sessions will be held in schools and orphanages in and around Ernakulam. Both boys and girls would attend the sessions together as opposed to the usual practice of segregating the boys and girls while talking about menstruation. The first of such sessions was held on 5th December 2017 at the Govt Higher Secondary School, Elamakkara. The students were introduced to the topic with the aid of clippings from popular movies, videos, a dance performance and a skit. Ms. Reena Madhu and Mr. Fabel Varghese, Professors of The Department of Applied Psychology and Counselling, TocH Institute of Science and Technology, Arakunnam handled the classes for the students on menstrual hygiene and taboos respectively. The positive feedback we received from the students and teachers of the school has urged us to work more enthusiastically towards the cause.
Menstruation is a part of the lives of women that women are forced to hide and keep quiet about. We feel that social attitudes need to be changed immediately so that women are no longer weighed down by the shame of it. One-half of society must not be shunned for what is nothing but a natural bodily process.
Written by : Anagha Pradeep