Updated: Sep 24, 2020
Story By: Sanjana Dixit
“Is it okay to eat papaya or eggs during your period? Can we go outside the house during our period? Do boys menstruate?” These questions, making me question – Why? Why the stigma? Why the myths and superstitions linked to something that is a natural, biological process in one’s body?
Periods are powerful because they are normal. When we stigmatise or exalt a commonplace trait of being human we are deciding who has access to a safe and dignified world and who doesn’t.
The first time I was confronted with these thoughts was when I had gone to an orphanage – ThayiMane – to celebrate my 16th birthday. I happened to use the washroom there. Although it was decently maintained, it raised several questions in my mind regarding how these many individuals were able to take care of their period. Naturally, I went and talked to the founder and she told me that while several people would come forward to donate books, toys, stationery, little to nobody would come forward to donate or fund for something as important as menstrual products. That really struck a nerve! As a girl, myself, I can’t imagine having my periods without the right resources or information on how to manage them; and that’s when I told myself ‘Something had to be done’.
As a feminist and an advocate for gender inclusivity, this was a topic that I really felt strongly about. I believe that every individual has the RIGHT to manage their period with dignity, and thus, I started an NGO named RutuChakra. The word RutuChakra literally stands for the words ‘menstrual cycle’ in Devanagari script. RutuChakra’s mission is to ensure that every menstruator is able to menstruate with dignity.
Historically, Menstruation is considered as a taboo topic; something society has defined based on several myths, stigmas and stereotypes which further propagates menstrual discrimination in various shapes and forms. Those who experience them are been seen as unclean and dirty. Right now, there are people all over the world who are too afraid to talk to their doctor, who do not have access to safe and hygienic period products, who are putting their bodies in dangerous situations because the stigma and lack of education. Starting RutuChakra meant going against this conventional societal narrative.
Over the course of 1.5 years after starting RutuChakra, perhaps the most fulfilling and satisfying moment has been looking back and realising that we are making a change. Every 6 months, we have a follow up workshop with these organisations. We have noticed that these individuals now are more confident, open & empowered. They no longer associate Menstruation with captivity and disgust, but rather with pride.
I felt strongly about the menstrual stigma and now, along with my team, I am working towards making that ideal world with menstrual equity a reality. You never know the power of change, until you start making it.