In much of India, the word ‘menstruation’ is taboo and a large part of the population, particularly women, shies away from talking about menstrual products out of embarrassment. But in rural Malihabad (Lucknow) two girls Aneesha and Deeksha are enlisting their brothers’ help to sew sanitary pads.
“I was happy to see that my brother, who is in Class 8, did not feel ashamed to make sanitary napkins with me. Everyone thinks that menstruation is a curse, but it’s a natural, healthy process,” said Aneesha Kanaujia, who appeared in Class 12 UP Board exam and is awaiting her result.
Her brother Anmol enjoyed the new experience, saying, “At first I didn’t know what she was making. But then she explained it to me and told me about menstrual hygiene. I think many people feel ashamed discussing this topic because they don’t know how important it is.”
The good thing was that no one in the family objected to their work. “Our parents never opposed the idea and allowed us to work together in stitching sanitary pads,” Aneesha said.
Another girl Deeksha saw this lockdown period as an opportunity to do something for other girls who lack access to menstrual products. “There are so many girls who don’t have money to buy pads,” she said, adding. “I want to make more pads and distribute them among the girls who need them.”
Deeksha has also appeared in Class 12 exam and is preparing for entrance examination to seek admission to Delhi University.
Like Anmol, Deeksha’s brother Himanshu, who is in Class 9, said he also learned a lot from his sister about menstruation and menstrual hygiene. “My sister explained about menstrual hygiene and I helped her in stitching sanitary pads which she distributed among adolescent girls who are not financially well off,” Himanshu said.
This campaign to make sanitary napkins is being coordinated by Zarine García, director of Youth Leadership at Study Hall Educational Foundation.
Even amidst the lockdown, the campaign has given these kids from Malihabad the opportunity to spread awareness about menstrual hygiene and being about a positive change.
However, both girls were of the view that disposable pads were a drain on women and their families and had the problem of disposing them of
“It is heartening to see these kids take the discussion home to their families to eliminate stigma and spread the message that periods are natural and nothing to be ashamed of. This May, in honor of Menstrual Hygiene Day, our students are learning to sew their own cloth sanitary napkins at home, and daring to break age-old taboos by drying them outside in the sun,” said Garcia..