Menstrual Health: Right or Ruin?

Menstrual health refers to complete physical, social and mental well-being with regard to the menstrual cycle. A significant part of menstrual health is menstrual hygiene. In addition to access to menstrual products like pads and tampons, it involves hygienic and accessible sanitation facilities with clean water and a supportive environment. Proper menstrual health allows menstruators to go about their lives comfortably while lowering the chances of vaginal infections.

Today, 500 million menstruators – almost a third of all menstruators across the world – don’t have access to any form of menstrual care. In many places all over the world, there is limited availability of menstrual products, forcing menstruators to resort to using dirty rags and torn washcloths instead. In other cases, even if menstrual products are available, they are not accessible, either due to high prices and taxation or because of the period-related stereotypes infiltrating society. A lack of education and awareness about menstruation has led to stigma and inaccurate assumptions, making it difficult for menstruators to ask for help. This negligence of hygiene causes many easily avoidable infections to spread undetected or, in some cases, to be diagnosed incorrectly and thus mistreated.

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) is a common example of such infections, caused by prolonged contact with scratchy rags or tissue paper instead of menstrual products or by unprotected sex. It’s an illness in which the vagina undergoes inflammation due to the overgrowth of bacteria living inside it. In a study by the National Library of Medicine in 2013, menstruators with vaginosis reported feeling “embarrassed, self-conscious, and ashamed”. They admitted to feelings of disgust on smelling the foul “fishy” odour characteristic of BV. People with BV experience excessive discharge and vaginal itching, making them feel “dirty”. The impact it has on one’s self-esteem is staggering, and many are left grappling with not only an illness but also the self-loathing that comes with it. They halt daily activities like swimming and going to the gym, and are sometimes forced to forgo education altogether. Patients are repulsed by their symptoms and try to hide them for as long as they can, leading to the infection going undiagnosed for a long time. Additionally, as BV progresses to a later stage, there are chances of it being mistaken for a different illness, such as yeast infection or gonorrhoea, which leads to incorrect treatments that could adversely impact the patient’s health. Even after an accurate diagnosis, the cost of treatment reaches up to INR 22,500, which lower-income households – most of India’s population – find unfeasible. The general stigma surrounding menstruation compounds the problem, exacerbating the number of untreated BV cases and raising the chances of sexually transmitted infections and miscarriages. 

Another illness that is worsened by a lack of sexual healthcare is cervical cancer. Poor menstrual hygiene is a decisive factor in the development of this disease, particularly when it comes to unprotected sex and not regularly cleaning the vaginal area. The first symptom of this cancer is vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods or after menopause. The widespread stigma around menstruation makes this an uncomfortable topic for most to discuss, and these first signs of cancer go ignored. The cancer, therefore, progresses to an advanced stage before being noticed. In its initial stage, the survival rate is 92%, but as it advances untreated, it drops to 59%. 

It is also imperative to remember that cancer is one of the most frightening things anyone can be diagnosed with. The existence of a cure doesn’t always change its association with being a death sentence, especially when recovery is not guaranteed. Even if one survives the latter stage, recovery is a painful process, and survivors are left much weakened. They may be forced to quit their jobs, and future pregnancies are incredibly risky. This, of course, is about those who survive, who are outnumbered by those who don’t. In India alone, this amounts to a mortality rate of 34%. 

Menstrual health is as much about mental health as it is about physical health. One of the most common disorders with regard to menstruation is premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). In India, there are over 10 million cases of PMDD every year. It can cause severe irritability, anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. Casey Clark, a menstruator suffering from PMDD, expressed the inclination to “lie motionless in bed all day” and “sit staring at the wall”, a response similar to premenstrual syndromes (PMS) which are far more common. The primary difference between PMS and PMDD is the latter’s severity and the influx of intrusive thoughts and suicidal feelings that come with it. According to Diana Samuel, a board-certified psychiatrist, “While people with PMS continue to function, someone with PMDD has emotional and behavioural symptoms that affect their daily functioning.” 

Even so, a worrying number of people trim PMDD down to PMS. This dismissive attitude is prevalent with regard to almost all mental health problems associated with menstruation, which are often ignored entirely, pegged down to menstruators being too “hormonal” or “hysterical”. When nobody believes that their issue is a real one, their support system dwindles into nonexistence and they are left wrestling with it by themselves. Told continuously that their pain is a figment of their imagination, menstruators are forced to grapple alone with both the pain and the pervasive belief that it isn’t real at all. 

One of the predominant causes of a lack of menstrual health is period poverty. On a global scale, people experiencing period poverty may be forced to lose economic opportunities because they are not able to leave their homes safely while menstruating. A study in the UK showed that out of a group of educated women, 44% of those who had experienced period poverty struggled to find employment. This figure was 20% higher than that of women who had always had access to menstrual products. This disparity perpetuates a vicious cycle of deprivation since less income may lead to period poverty in the future as well. Moreover, according to a study conducted in the US by BMC Women’s Health in 2021, over 68% of women who experienced period poverty reported symptoms consistent with moderate or severe depression. Despite such far-reaching impacts of period poverty, there is insufficient menstrual care infrastructure, and people experiencing this are left to fend for themselves.

Several initiatives across the world have risen to solve this problem of inadequate menstrual care provisions. In Ghana, sanitation facilities were constructed in more than 260 schools across the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA). These facilities include separate toilets and changing rooms for girls along with handwashing facilities and safe spaces for the disposal of used sanitary products. In Bangladesh, a Rural Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) for Human Capital Development Project was set up, involving behaviour change sessions and training regarding the importance of menstrual hygiene and safely managed WASH facilities. It will finance 150 women entrepreneurs to help them sell soaps, disinfectants, and menstrual products at household doorsteps since many women are reluctant to purchase them in public spaces for fear of being seen as “impure” or “unclean”. Many countries around the world have also begun providing free menstrual products to anyone who needs them, including Scotland, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda. While these initiatives are a strong beginning, they are usually “women-oriented” and leave out other groups of menstruators, rendering them the most vulnerable. 

Besides the provision of menstrual care, the foremost strategy for combating problems related to menstrual health is to spread awareness about them and their implications in society. It is important to ensure that menstruators suffering from menstrual illnesses have their complaints taken seriously so that they can receive the support and attention they require. With regard to this, there is still a long way to go. However, while the steps being taken have their shortcomings and are not enough alone, they are making an impact all the same. The state of menstrual health is dire, but it is improving every day, with each new initiative and each “I understand.”

Article by Gia Arora from the REDefine Team

Featured Artwork by Sanvee Jatia

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Bilardi, Jade E, et al. “The Burden of Bacterial Vaginosis: Women’s Experience of the Physical, Emotional, Sexual and Social Impact of Living with Recurrent Bacterial Vaginosis.” PloS One, 11 Sept. 2013,

Elsworthy, Emma. “Women Who Experience Period Poverty ‘More Likely to Suffer Anxiety or Depression.’” The Independent, 18 July 2018,

“How Does Cervical Cancer Affect the Rest of the Body?” Moffitt Cancer Center,

“Menstrual Health and Hygiene.” World Bank, 18 May 2022,

“Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).” Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) | Office on Women’s Health,

Rodriguez, Leah. “20 Places around the World Where Governments Provide Free Period Products.” Global Citizen, 1 Oct. 2021,

“Rose’s Cancer Survivor Story.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 Dec. 2022,

TodayShow. “Like PMS, but Worse: What It’s like to Live with PMDD.” TODAY.Com, 3 Nov. 2021,,PMDD%20symptoms%20vary%20by%20individual%2C%20but%20some%20of%20the%20most,suicidal%20thoughts%2C%20insomnia%20and%20headaches

“What Is Cervical Cancer?” National Cancer Institute,

“What Is PMDD?” Mind,

A Peek from the Other Side

How many of you who do not menstruate can testify that you possess complete knowledge about menstruation and its processes? Is your awareness of it limited to our middle school textbooks? Have you ever asked your mom or sister how they feel during their periods?

Menstruation, frequently considered taboo, often remains unknown to non-menstruators for long periods, sometimes even till adulthood. The ignorance may originate from the belief that non-menstruators are not required to know about menstruation as it does not concern them, at least not directly. Raised in a typical household, my experience with the subject was quite similar to other teenage non-menstruators. Like many, my family focuses on upholding cultural traditions, essentially carrying forward elements of a patriarchal society (link to tara’s article). As a result, menstruation stays concealed from the non-menstruating members of the family. To resolve this, we must become actively conscious, aware and inclusive of one another’s lived experiences. Let me start by presenting my story.

I was 13 years old when I was looking for some food in my older sister’s bag and came across what appeared to be some wrapped napkin. Barely a second later, my sister snatched the bag out of my hand, perhaps out of shame, and vanished before I could pose any questions. It was quite confusing; I wondered why she would hide these tissues. My confusion intensified when I saw a packet of them hidden far away in the corner of the storage room. There was an ample amount of toilet paper in the bathroom – why the need for special samples? Initially, I thought it was some sort of prolonged diarrhoea that ran in the family. That would explain her need to hide and cover the tissues with newspaper out of embarrassment. However, this left me worrying about whether it was contagious. After all, I could not afford to be sick with my final exams just around the corner.

My family never came forward to shed light on the topic; my father uncomfortably changed the subject if I ever brought it up, leaving me befuddled and fearful for a long time, hoping that the diarrhoea would never take hold of me. This fear was somewhat alleviated when I overheard this phenomenon being referred to as a “girls’ problem” and, therefore, unlikely to affect me.  

Once, my sister was in a lot of pain, so my mother asked me to get some hot water bags for her. I sensed that the pain had gotten more severe. After much hesitation, my underlying concern for my sister finally made me confront my mother about the issue. Luckily, my mother is a gynaecologist. 

The first time she mentioned menstruation, I almost took out a ruler and a pencil. However, as she went on, things started to fall into place. Revelation upon revelation filled the blanks in my mind as things finally started making sense to me. Slowly, I realised how off-course I was. Those particular tissues were sanitary pads used by menstruators during menstruation, a normal biological process faced by roughly half the world.

Given how easily I understood this idea as an adolescent, I realised that the widespread notion that children should be sheltered from serious topics like this one is baseless. It is far more palatable and, dare I say, easier to teach a child about menstruation than a confused, self-conscious teenager. The problem is the taboo of the topic, creating an evident gap in education, particularly prevalent in rural areas of India. Even outside rural areas, few children are lucky enough to have informed parents willing to have these critical conversations. As a result, non-menstruators tend to absorb bleak beliefs from their surroundings and the internet. These perpetuate the stereotype of the process as impure, prohibiting women from the kitchen during their periods or wrapping sanitary pads in newspapers to ensure no one recognises them.

This lack of information causes many kids to form negative correlations with menstruation at an early age. Truth be told, there are many gaps in India’s menstrual education system, which collectively paint an intimidating, even scary, image of this simple biological process. Menstruation is looked at as some sort of a disease, menstrual blood is considered dirty, and a variety of myths like these do not portray the process in the right light. To make matters worse, the National Library of Medicine conducted a qualitative study exploring the concerning absence of menstrual education in most rural areas of India. 

How can so many people perceive an innately biological process as unnatural? Ironic? Yes. Devastating? Definitely. 

Did you know a menstruator loses about 60-80 milliliters of blood (2-3 tablespoonfuls) each month? On top of that, they go through the severe discomfort of abdominal pain, cramps, and nausea. Despite this, they stick with their daily schedule. They go to work. They take care of their households. They give exams. They are expected to go about their lives without considering their physical and mental states.  

At first glance, it might seem that the menstruating period is a painful week that all menstruators hope to pass quickly. While it is true that a lot of menstruators do have to persevere through the entire process, we must not undervalue how beautiful the process is. After all, it is initiated by the same process that brings life into our world. To make this experience safer and more comfortable for menstruators, we as a society need to accommodate some changes.

The first step of change begins in our homes. The non-menstruators in a house should first learn about the basic biology of menstruation. This will ensure they understand how this biological process is an entirely natural occurrence, further eliminating stigmatised views that young boys often catch in their early years from untrustworthy, inaccurate and even violent sources like online pornography. By knowing the basic process, they’ll create an understanding of a menstruator’s struggles, becoming approachable when menstruators need help and support, creating an understanding of their struggles. Empathy and respect for them will ultimately follow.  

The fact that even this fundamental lack of awareness has become so alien to people in India is a matter of utmost concern. I speak from personal experience when I say that putting an end to social tension when talking about a topic like menstruation is precisely what all of us need to create a safer space for menstruators and non-menstruators to flourish. 

Good talk, peeps.

Article by Aadi Raj Dewan from the REDefine Team

Featured Artwork by Sanvee Jatia

Holland, Kimberly. “How Much Blood Do You Lose on Your Period?” Healthline, 30 May 2018,

Mason, Linda, et al. “‘We Do Not Know’: A Qualitative Study Exploring Boys Perceptions of Menstruation in India.” Reproductive Health, vol. 14, no. 1, 2017, p. 174, doi:10.1186/s12978-017-0435-x.

Gender Inequality: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Ever since the beginning, society has been riddled with prejudice and discrimination, of which the most spoken-about is that concerning gender. The last few centuries have seen massive shifts in society’s perception of gender hierarchies and roles, from women securing the right to vote to support their education. Today, feminism is explored deeper than ever through global movements. Although this article is restricted to a gender binary, the ideas discussed can encompass the entire spectrum. 

Something we must understand, however, is that if one suffers “less” than another, their suffering isn’t evaporated altogether. Gender discrimination goes both ways, if in varying ways and degrees. Movements advocating gender equality generally only tackle women’s side of the issue, and men’s issues are ignored. The stereotypes faced by one gender are not the fault of another, but neither are they independent of each other – gender-related suffering is rooted in the same stereotypes: different ends of the same prejudice.

We’ve all heard harmful stereotypes about women being inferior to men but often neglect the damage of their inverse: the idea that men are “superior”. Besides putting women down, this places men on an unfair pedestal, bestowing an impossible image upon them. Traditional family roles dictate that in a relationship involving a man and a woman, the man is the breadwinner and the head of the house. This places undue pressure on him; should he fail to reach this standard, he is considered weak. 

The constant expectation of living up to their “superiority”, combined with chauvinism and homophobia, also restricts a man’s dreams and job opportunities. For instance, a woman entering a field with predominantly male figures, such as engineering or maths, is called strong and smart. On the other hand, a man entering a field with predominantly female figures, like ballet or nursing, is called effeminate and gay. If women are expected to be nothing but child-bearers, the responsibility of everything else is given to men. If women are presented as weak and dependent, the unfair expectation of always being strong and independent falls onto men. Furthermore, since there is no biological justification for women being less smart or capable than men, it’s crucial to acknowledge that men are not inherently all-powerful.

Another overarching stereotype is that women are sensitive and emotional while men are stoic, tough, and impassive. While this inhibits a woman’s ability to be taken seriously or considered logical, it also indicates that a man with feelings mustn’t be a man at all. This is perpetuated through phrases like “boys don’t cry”, embedded in male minds throughout their childhoods. Unable to convey their emotions, many repress their feelings till they emerge in the form of deteriorating self-esteem, severe anxiety, or depression – and often, violence against women, validating the stereotype of men’s aggressiveness and leaving the issue unresolved. Very few boys feel safe enough to confide in others about their feelings, afraid of being labelled “unmanly”. This creates a vicious cycle of suppressing emotions and lashing out.

People, companies, and even body positivity campaigns often leave out its impact on men in conversations about body shaming. Perhaps the most overlooked and underplayed aspect of body shaming is that of male genitalia. According to a study by Bruce M. King of Clemson University, the average size of a penis is between 5.1 and 5.5 inches, not the six it’s often expected to be. This assumption, along with the narrative of women liking “big dicks”, constantly reiterated on Instagram, on TikTok, and in the banter between friends, leads to immense insecurity and societal mockery. We’re entrenched in the idea that a strong, “masculine” body is tall and pumped with muscles, and nothing else is “manly” enough. The media, through mainstream movies like ‘He’s All That’, adds fuel to the proverbial fire by adopting trends of boys’ “glow ups”, going from short and lanky to tall and brawny figures, coming closer to the “ideal” and suddenly becoming the centres of attraction. The media’s influence permeates our perceptions of attractiveness to the point where our desires can’t be differentiated from society’s expectations. 

The idea that women are weak and passive while men are violent is another deleterious stereotype. Male aggression is so normalised by society that it’s practically encouraged. A prime example is the idea that “boys will be boys,” arguing that physical violence is an inherent part of the male identity. A report by Sonja Starr of the University of Michigan Law School shows that in most countries, men are 63% more likely to get persecuted than women after committing the same crimes. After all, people generally stereotyped as prone to violence will be labelled guilty faster than those seen as weak and helpless.

The dismissal of men’s aggression also means that physical violence against men is dismissed. According to a survey conducted in Haryana by Dr Pankaj Bhardwaj, 52% of all married men suffer from gender-based violence inflicted by their spouses. This statistic is never discussed, nor does the law protect men from their abusers. Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code has a clause on domestic violence, defined as when “the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman subjects [her] to cruelty,” with no mention of a man being a possible victim. Fearful of hurting their masculinity by admitting they were exploited, a tiny proportion of men report their abuse. When not taken seriously, that number falls further. Similarly, although men who have been sexually harassed or assaulted experience the same emotional consequences as women, their recovery is impeded by society’s refusal to recognise their trauma in the first place, expecting them to “man up” and be tough. A 2005 study conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control shows that one in six men has been a victim of sexual abuse at some point in his life. If this statistic sounds absurd, it only points out the internalised sexism we’ve overlooked – the establishment of women as the weaker counterparts means that violence on their part is disregarded. Establishing men as stronger makes us forget that they can be victims too.

The situation is dire, but it can be improved. The most efficient way to combat stereotypes is through awareness, exposure, and intervention. The media plays a critical role in how we perceive ourselves, and if it can add to the problem, it can also fix it by representing men outside the stereotypes ascribed to them. 

Young children need to be taught that stereotypes, gendered or otherwise, must be questioned. Since stereotypes are generally enforced at home, educating parents and older relatives targets the problem at its core.

By understanding that all genders are victims of the same stereotypes, we can acknowledge that the issue doesn’t end with one part of the spectrum. In doing so, we can pave the way for a better society in a better future, free of discrimination in all the ways it isn’t today and all the ways it could be tomorrow.

Article by Gia Arora from the REDefine Team

Featured Artwork by Prathna Anand and Sia Aggarwal

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Berlatsky, Noah. “When Men Experience Sexism.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 29 May 2013,

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Pandey, Aditya. “9 Eye-Opening Facts & Statistics about Domestic Violence Cases against Indian Men.”, 2 June 2022,  

Rios, Hugo, and Nollyanne Delacruz. “Stop Body Shaming Size of Male Genitalia.” Daily Titan, 15 Feb. 2022,  

King, Bruce M. “Average-Size Erect Penis: Fiction, Fact, and the Need for Counseling.” Taylor & Francis, 15 July 2020, Starr, Sonja. “Estimating Gender Disparities in Federal Criminal Cases.” University of Michigan Law School Scholarship Repository, August 2012,

Sustainable Menstruation: The Road to a Greener Planet

The term “sustainable menstruation” refers to menstrual management practices that don’t harm the environment. It involves the use of easily accessible, alternative products beneficial to menstruators as well as the planet, thereby helping to reduce the plastic waste ending up in landfills and oceans. With the world moving towards a greener Earth, sustainable menstruation is the need of the hour.

According to a 2018 WaterAid India and Menstrual Hygiene Alliance India (MHAI) report, there are over 336 million menstruators in India but only 121 million of these use sanitary pads, and the rest adopt other, generally unhygienic, ways. Assuming that each menstruator uses an average of 20 sanitary pads per cycle, menstruators use and dispose of more than a billion sanitary pads annually. Conventional sanitary pads are made of 90% plastic, each one equivalent to around 4 plastic bags! Imagine the staggering amount of waste generated; it can cover landfills spread over 60 hectares. Picture 85 football fields put together! Switching to eco-friendly menstrual products is a progression needed to save our planet.

Disposable sanitary napkins (DSNs) are marketed as hygienic and safe. However, being non-biodegradable, each napkin takes approximately 500-800 years to disintegrate fully after disposal. These pads have also been found to contain toxic and volatile compounds, negatively impacting the user’s health and the environment. Prolonged use of DSNs may result in rashes, itching, urinary infection, skin allergies and adverse effects on endocrine and reproductive systems due to the chemicals they contain. Sustainable products are free of harmful chemicals and are relatively safer.

Our growing market offers various sustainable menstruation products to pick from.They are also typically less expensive for consumers over the long term. A menstrual cup costs Rs 400 and can last up to 10 years, whereas the cost of using sanitary pads for that duration would be around Rs 24000! Given that the menstrual cup is reusable, it doesn’t contribute much to the waste generated by disposable sanitary products. Additionally, menstrual cups collect blood instead of absorbing them, reducing the risks associated with disposable products. Medical-grade silicon is utilised to make menstrual cups, reducing the chances of vaginal infections, diseases or allergies. It’s also leak-proof, doesn’t need to be changed often, and can be worn with an intrauterine device. However, the insertion technique needs to be learnt. Otherwise, its usage may be messy. Finding the right fit might also be difficult as the size varies from person to person. 

Another environmentally friendly product is the cloth pad.Women with sensitive skin might benefit from their cotton material which, unlike regular pads, doesn’t irritate the skin and helps avoid unnecessary exposure to synthetic ingredients.These are thin and flexible and can absorb more than a regular disposable pad. While they have a high one-time cost, they are inexpensive in the long run since they can be washed and reused. They can last up to three to five years and are thus budget-friendly. However, keeping them clean and hygienic after blood stains can be unnecessarily difficult, disincentivising menstruators to purchase them

Lesser-known, yet extremely sustainable, products are period panties. They’re made up of triple layers of fabric, absorbent as well as water-proof, ensuring that there’s no leakage. These panties feel lighter as compared to sanitary pads and can be worn for a longer duration. They’re budget-friendly as they must be purchased only once but can be used many times. However, the high initial cost, even for a few pairs per cycle, can be disincentivizing at first glance and make them unfeasible for some people. Additionally, the hassle of maintenance (washing and drying) can have the same effect.

So the question remains: How can our government inculcate the practice of sustainable menstruation in the youth? The way ahead is to support small-scale manufacturers and non-profit organisations engaged in promoting sustainable products.

The Central Government started providing tax exemptions on all feminine hygiene products in July 2018. This was a welcome move, making all menstrual products more disposable, affordable and accessible to the lower-income population. 

Soch Green was the first label to introduce reusable menstrual cups in India and has been joined now by other home-grown brands such as Avni, Plush and Sirona. Before the advent of menstrual cups, some brands initiated the green period revolution by creating eco-friendly sanitary pads made of plant-based materials like banana fibre and bamboo.  

Recently a company named Padcare came up on Shark Tank India, presenting a futuristic and eco-friendly menstrual hygiene disposal solution by providing special dustbins that convert sanitary waste into reusable cellulose and plastic through a multi-step mechanical process. 

Under the Solid Waste Management (SWM) Rules, there is no clarity on whether sanitary napkins should be classified under bio-medical waste or plastic waste. They’re instead disposed of along with general household waste when they should be segregated, autoclaved and then incinerated to destroy pathogens. This discrepancy in classification leads to unsafe disposal practices. Many menstruators flush down disposable sanitary napkins after use, clogging underground drains and exposing manual scavengers to toxic chemicals. 

The government must enforce clear rules for waste disposal to institute a sustainable system for sanitary waste management. Schools, colleges and workplaces should organise menstrual awareness sessions so that menstruators are educated about the right way to dispose of menstrual waste and how to use menstrual cups and reusable cloth pads correctly.

The fate of planet Earth lies in our hands, dependent on our intent and actions. As members of an aware society, we must ensure that, along with making menstruation a comfortable and safe period for menstruators, we also need to encourage the adoption of “green” products.  Every menstruator can contribute to a cleaner, greener planet by making an eco-friendly transition from disposable to sustainable menstrual products.

Good talk, peeps.

Article by Aadi from the REDefine Team

Featured artwork by Sanvee Jatia


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Our Unique Talk at Voice of Slum

REDefine collaborated with non-menstruators for the first time to take up the opportunity of spreading awareness on another side of the gender spectrum.

Voice of Slums is a Noida-based NGO which focuses on providing children from slums with opportunities to reach their full potential through various education and employment prospects. While REDefine has collaborated with them previously, this endeavour was a new avenue for the organisation. This was the first talk being conducted by non-menstruators for non-menstruators, a very new group and a very new perspective. 

Our team, comprising four teenage boys, was quite nervous when we got off our car, did one final bag check, a relatively quick headcount, and entered the outer slum area. Google maps treated us, men, no different than our female counterparts who conducted previous talks. We found ourselves jostling through tiny meandering streets in this extensive labyrinth, asking bystanders for directions, and trying to read sign language to locate our destination. 

After what one could say took forever, we finally stood in front of a tiny authentic building with a large board showcasing the NGO’s name. We immediately felt welcomed as we crossed the ground floor occupied by young, vibrant girls. Next, we met with the head of the organization Mr Bhanu Pratap Singh. Since we had already been in contact with him for the past few weeks, our meeting was short and smooth. We exchanged pleasantries and went over our plan before he directed us to a classroom-like setup, crowded with curious boys between the ages of 9-14, wondering why they were abruptly gathered. The stage was set for us to begin what we came for.

We knew that getting the children to open up immediately was an unreasonable demand, so we kicked things off with a game of catch. We threw a ball around the room and whoever caught it had to say their names and hobbies out loud. To our surprise, we found many fascinating personalities, including voracious readers and brilliant artists, some of whose paintings we got to view. Now that things seemed much more comfortable, Adit began the introduction by telling them our goal (creating awareness) and then explained the basic concept of reproduction to give them surface-level context, followed by my part.

I covered puberty, and to create more relativity, I asked them to first reflect upon any physical changes they had recently observed in their bodies, being on the receiving end of some pretty hilarious answers like a thicker scalp or even uneven limb lengths (yes, someone actually said that). After I was finished, Adit extended those physical changes to changes in reproductive organs which helped explain the concept of anatomy quite fluently. While there were some initial turning heads and giggles, a few prepared jokes of ours, along with the seriousness in our tone, managed to keep things under control. We kept piping in at regular intervals to ensure they understood everything, often asking them to give us a loud cheer to keep their energy high.

Krishna carried forward the heavier part of the talk by giving a detailed view of the menstrual cycle and its irregularity. This topic took the longest for the children to successfully digest. Taking into account all of our inputs, he showed them how sanitary pads work and answered personal inquiries like what symptoms one should worry about when their sister or mother is menstruating. Furthermore, we also learnt how some kids themselves bought pads for their mothers and sisters, which was inspiring to hear.

The last portion on pain, feelings and sex was picked up by Yug, who, with his witty humour, made the section quite fun for all of us. His section on consent and sexual assault ended our talk on a considerably serious note. The children agreed with our views on it. They repeated the importance of consent aloud to further reiterate this idea. Our idea of a pictorial explanation proved to be of value as it helped the students to be able to comfortably identify the different reproductive organs and, by the end, explain their uses.

We also conducted a survey at the end to test the extent of change we were able to bring in the boys’ mindsets. Far from expected, the students got almost all of the questions right except the one asking whether periods were a disease, which was a notion we wanted to dispel but visibly failed to. To their surprise, we also brought chocolates, and sweets for them, which they more than happily devoured,  bringing great joy to us. As the children started leaving the room, they complimented our initiative and gave us high-fives for whatever we had done for them. It was at that moment we knew we had made a difference in the lives of those children. Overall, it was a great learning experience for the entire team. We all were profoundly satisfied with the small contributions we had made towards the beginning of a much more aware and understanding society.

Here are some links for you to check out Voice of Slum’s work: 






Good talk, peeps.

Article by Aadi Raj Dewan from the REDefine team