Reducing Period Stigma
A recent study undertaken in Northern India by WaterAid and various NGO partners, found that '41 per cent of respondents had no information, and were either completely unaware about menstruation or did not have any knowledge about the purpose of menstruation as a biological process prior to its onset.'
Of those that were aware of menstruation prior to their first period, 'most had got the information from their friends and mothers; only 2 per cent and 1 per cent of respondents had received information from their teachers or schools, and books, respectively.'
Statistics aside, Sanitree was founded because our founder could feel that menstruation was a taboo topic across India, alienating many women from men and from each other. The idea (as our founder heard one local in Bhind say in passing) that "menstruation is a punishment for being born female" is laced through with a deep misogynistic attitude. The general sentiment is reinforced with structural aspects; the whole transaction process for those who can access sanitary pads is discreet and sometimes literally under the counter.
Menstruation is a normal, natural process, but without the knowledge of what it is, why we have it and a comfortable dialogue about it, it can be overwhelming and isolating. A widespread lack of conversation means the negative associations around periods cannot be consciously undone.
What sanitree are doing
We know that it is not much use if menstrual education comes from an outsider. It is vital to us that the information is passed on in a culturally-sensitive, positive manner. This is why we deliver our workshops in collaboration with community leaders and local experts in biology.
We believe, to use the cliche, that knowledge is power. We want the processes of the womb should not only be understood but also appreciated and valued!