After I became a second-time mum, I decided to take a break from my corporate career and spend some quality time with kids. It was during this time, my interaction with fellow women increased, started to have endless gossip sessions over tea and snacks, visit to parks with kids, visiting local grocery stores with friends, exchanging new delicacies often. While the conversation topics would vary from kids, parents, in-laws, maids, serial updates, married life, husbands, there was one topic that women would often hesitate to talk about. Menstruation. Talking about Periods was as if we were discussing some hard-hidden secrets and they would do anything to escape from such conversations. I could feel a sheer sense of shame among them and it was strange for me for I couldn’t comprehend resistance towards this phenomenon which is as natural and biological as breathing.
While working amidst corporate women, I hardly remembered my period days but such encounters brought back memories about how I got introduced to the concept of Menstruation.
It was my 13th birthday, when we had guests at my home. All the aunties wished me and at the same time gave a sheepish smile to my mum and whispering to her – it’s time for her now, talk to her about it. And my mom responded with the same embarrassing grin and mentioned that my cousin is going to talk to me about it. While this interaction was making me anxious, I was also excited to know about it for I was getting so much of attention and pampering from everyone. Then comes the moment when my cousin started to explain to me about Menstruation. I don’t remember what she spoke to me, just that I kept laughing throughout and she was getting angry at me. I was laughing because she was embarrassed to talk openly to me, instead was trying to refer to it using different words. Little did she have any idea about why, what and how of Menstruation despite being 20 years’ old herself.
And that’s how most women counteracted to the conversation related to Periods. Most women face immense discomfort due to lack of appropriate hygiene practices and absence of accurate information among mothers which unfortunately gets passed on to their daughters in form of menstrual myths, stigmas and taboos.
Based on some statistics available from DASRA research work, it has been brought to light that around 70% of mothers consider Menstruation ‘dirty’ and ‘polluting’ – and unfortunately pass this bias, stigma and superstition to their daughters. Around 71% girls reported they were completely unprepared for their first period. Certain studies and interviews made clear that though the girls and women from less privileged background need hand holding to manage Menstruation with respect, dignity and in hygienic ways, girls and women from the urban society also needs awareness in understanding Menstruation and to manage it wisely thereby taking care of their health and environment.
Hence, it is vital that women are educated to understand menstruation as a natural process and bring an end to the shame attached with it. This will also help imbibe confidence among their daughters and prepare them for a better tomorrow.