I have had a busy one month! After my induction training with India Fellow in Udaipur, I rushed to Delhi to join an NGO, Child Survival India (CSI). And on 20th of August, I got an opportunity to be the part of Second Anemia and Menstrual Hygiene Health camp with the field staff of CSI. It was not at all a good experience in the beginning. My project manager gave me an unclear address about a government school and shockingly there were three schools with similar names within a 6-8 km radius. But the humble E-rickshaw driver helped me to reach my destination in Samaypur Badli after roaming helplessly for one hour with added information how to return from the school.
But later it turned out to be fun-filled and inspiring six hours in the Higher Secondary Girls’ School in Badli, North Delhi. Within minutes, the vacant auditorium got filled with 120 adolescent girls. The girls began with an activity in the form of a snakes-and-ladders game which conveyed the message that if you are going a level up in the game, it means you are having a healthy menstrual cycle. As additions to our team, we had two counselors, two doctors, two other staff at the registration and fruit distribution desk; and three at the nutrition workshop. It was now left to me to follow the CSI staff and the cheerful girls. Each corner of the auditorium had different activities; at one end, girls had queued up to receive fruits, at another, they were getting their blood pressure and height and weight getting checked. Then hemoglobin tests were happening. After all that the counselors were comparing their first and second camps’ results and providing valuable advice in the simplest ways possible, for the girls to understand.
Meanwhile, I was trying to test the claim of my organization, that they were doing a good job. I am joyous to share that I did not find a single girl having improper or inadequate information about menstrual hygiene. The nutrition workshop was indeed a great experience for me as well as the young girls. They were getting lessons of what to eat; nutritional food items like spinach, pulses etc and by learning how to cook them. The girls shared that they will teach these recipes to their mothers as well.
I was astonished to find the difference between the reports from both the camps. The girls were so comfortable and confident irrespective of the menstrual taboos prevailing in the society. But there is still some loopholes left in the process which I believe will be taken care of after few more camps and our organization is also planning to spread these camps in other parts of the country.
The impact can be profound if it continues. Some of the quotes I heard from the adolescent girls shows that India is getting ready to break stereotypes around taboos of menstrual hygiene:
“Earlier it was told to us that we should not touch the pickles during the menstrual period but in this camp only, we came to know that it is just a myth and if we will keep ourselves clean, then there will be no problem at all.”- Pooja Yadav, 9th Std.
“When I heard about menstruation for the first time through friends, I got scared and when it happened to me for the first time then also I felt awkward but now I am much more confident and comfortable.”- A 9th Std school girl.
India is Ready to Bleed.