“I was never told about periods by anyone, not even my mother. Whenever I used to ask her what menstruation is, she would avoid the question by saying that I’ll know when it happens”, says Sujata, a 13-year old, class 9 student of Rajkiya Varishtha Madhyamik School, Wazirpur Titana (Panipat).
This is not just the story of one girl but many. Menstruation is still considered a taboo across the globe, where young girls or women are told not to talk about periods in front of men. Conversations about periods usually become whispers in the ears. “My mother told me not to talk about periods at school or home or let anybody know about my periods. She also tells me the dos and don’ts during periods”, continued Sujata.
Often proper awareness and understanding of menstruation are not imparted at home and in schools. Mostly, boys or men are not educated about menstruation. Nonetheless, it is important to familiarise them with the natural processes associated with women’s bodies. “At school, there was just one session (Balika Manch) for girls where they were told about periods. I feel the session should also have included boys since their sisters and mothers also have periods”, said Sujata.
Sujata further expressed, “women should not be ashamed of their natural processes nor should society be disgusted by it. Menstruation is not a disease and doesn’t require any cure. However, periods as a topic of discussion should be normalized. It is nothing to be ashamed of. There is absolutely nothing impure about periods”.
Various myths revolve around menstruation. The most common ones are, ‘period blood is dirty’, ‘if a girl doesn't get her periods at 14, it isn’t normal’. “Girls make fun if a girl gets her periods at the age of 12, 13 or 15 years. It is normal to get periods between 12-15 years of age. However, it is difficult to talk about our first periods because of the fear of being judged”, continued Sujata.
To raise awareness on menstruation among boys and girls, the team of Kadam Badhate Chalo organized a session on debunking various myths related to menstruation and breaking the shame and taboos associated with it. The team prepared flashcards under ‘facts’ and ‘myths’ associated with periods and collected responses of the participants on their perspectives about facts and myths. A discussion was also held to understand the rationale behind different facts and myths about menstruation. Menstrual hygiene was also a topic of discussion.
Society needs to understand the problems faced by women when they are judged on menstruation. Menstruation needs to be normalized in society. It is a natural process in women’s bodies and keeps the body healthy and balanced. “People should change their perspective about menstruation, women should be able to talk about it openly without being judged with each other inside and outside the home and even with men”, said Sujata as she further told the KBC team, “my brother is very supportive of me and I share all my day-to-day experiences, including periods with him. He supports me on my engagement in sports and academic competitions, and encourages me to follow my dreams”.