Spreading the Message of Menstrual Health
Thiruvananthapuram: Though menstruation, sanitary napkins and period cramps are no longer discussed in hushed voices to ‘avoid unwanted attention’, the taboo related to menstruation couldn’t be said to have completely vanished from our society. On the other hand, a lot more awareness needs to be generated among the public on menstrual hygiene, feels Anupama Sandeep, Founder, Carisma, a women empowerment initiative based in Thiruvananthapuram, who works among various sections of society to promote awareness in this regard.
Ambassador of Zone XXII of JCI ‘Prayas’, Anupama Sandeep and her team works round the clock to create awareness about menstrual hygiene
Anupama was selected as the ambassador of Zone XXII (a region that stretches from Vaikom to Thiruvananthapuram) of Junior Chamber International (JCI). As part of observing this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8, the members of this zone went to schools and colleges to organise awareness sessions on menstrual hygiene. JCI is a non-profit organisation of young citizens aged between 18 and 40 who are committed to make an impact on society. It has members in more than 100 countries. ‘Prayas’ is a project of the JCI.
“JCI organised an all-India marathon this Women’s Day which was flagged off by actor Akshay Kumar in Lucknow. In my zone, we had conducted awareness classes on menstrual hygiene in schools in rural and coastal areas. We also organised ‘flash mobs’ in public places and quiz programmes in schools,” said Anupama.
“It is surprising to note that in many rural and backward areas, girls still remain unaware of menstruation till they attain puberty which often causes anxiety in them. We also provide counselling to such students through our awareness classes,” she adds.
The zonal team members also distribute sanitary napkins and provide napkins to every child through ‘sponsoring a child’ programme. They sponsor the brand ‘Niine’ which is economical. The napkins are 70 per cent cotton and come with a disposable bag. For Rs. 300, Niine provides 84 napkins which will be normally sufficient for a year. Even though ‘Niine’ brand is not available in the local market, it can be ordered online through Amazon. JCI also sponsored an incinerator for destroying the soiled napkins in a government school.
Earlier, JCI India had only two chapters in Thiruvananthapuram, but now they have four. “After conducting many awareness programmes in the city, we started receiving positive responses from youngsters and more people began coming forward to join the initiative,” adds Anupama.
JCI has associated with Pran Fertility and Well Woman Centre at Kumarapuram in conducting medical check-up camps and offering advice on gynecology-related matters to school and college students. The members of Carisma are also involved in this social initiative. The expenditure for sponsoring sanitary napkins and other things are met by the members themselves.
“Initially, we tried for sponsorship, but no one came forward. So, we ourselves began sponsoring sanitary napkins for each child and seeing this, many people gradually came forward offering sponsorship. Moreover, while sponsoring sanitary napkins, it is not necessary that one need to provide only ‘Niine’ napkins. They are free to provide other brands, too,” says Anupama.
Distribution of sanitary napkins is being done as part of ‘Impact 2030’, which is a private sector-led initiative in collaboration with the United Nations, civil society, academia and other stakeholders.
The JCI team,while conducting awareness classes for students above 6th standard, plays a video highlighting the possibility of developing infertility issues if one uses cloth in an unhygienic manner instead of napkins, during periods.
The team also found that girls who have access to sanitary napkins often use them in the most unhygienic way in the absence of proper disposal mechanism for the same. Doctors, who accompany the volunteers during awareness sessions in schools, explain to students the consequences of unhygienic practices during periods.
“We may not be able to change the attitude of 100 people, but we would be happy if we could change at least one person,” says Anupama.
Each chapter of the JCI adopts schools and after conducting awareness sessions, they try to get the feedback from the girls themselves rather than from the teachers. Anupama notes that there are still students and families who are hesitant to speak about menstrual issues. The JCI team, with the help of Pran Fertility, also make arrangements to check the haemoglobin level of students. They have also tied up with various IMA chapters. The team also holds summer camps and public programmes to promote awareness on personal hygiene.
Anupama also clarifies why she is not promoting the use of menstrual cups which have a wide marketing potential now. She says that there are many drawbacks for these cups. For example, the use of cups may cause hygiene issues as the water used for cleaning the reusable cup may not always be of good quality which, in turn, may cause infections. Moreover, it may not be a pleasant sight for many to see blood collected in the cup and it may even cause giddiness or other discomforts.
Every year May 28 is observed as Menstrual Hygiene Day and JCI Kerala chapters are planning to organise a bike rally to promote awareness from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasargod in this connection.