The Period Survey for the SETU Foundation: Planning

In hopes of conducting a workshop with SETU Foundation, we decided to conduct a survey about periods with the girls in Setu Shikshajyoti Kendra. Here’s a bit on the thought put into the survey.

Dear reader,

As we sent countless emails to NGOs around Delhi and Noida wondering if our workshops on menstrual health and hygiene would be helpful, we weren’t surprised when we received no response barring one email that said our services weren’t needed. Our spirits did rise when the SETU Foundation responded saying the workshop could be held in their school in Nithari (a village in Noida) called the SETU Shikshajyoti Education Kendra.

The SETU Foundation is an organization that works to make permanent changes to the lives of the underprivileged or the less fortunate. This is done in terms of hygiene, education for all, youth development, women empowerment as well as skill development and rehabilitation. SETU stands for “Skill and Empower the Un-Served”, and interestingly, means “bridge” in Hindi.

This was greeted with much enthusiasm from the team. When are we going to the school to meet the girls? How many girls are there? Who are we going to collaborate with? How much do the girls know? Before we jumped the gun, Ritika suggested we conduct a survey with the girls. We were informed that they could read and write English reasonably well but, knowing our team, we remained skeptical while constructing the survey.

We debated whether the survey was to be aimed at sparking thought about menstruation and the taboo around it or simply retrieving information to aid the talks we were going to give. It was decided that its primary aim was to get information. Some questions, like what they weren’t allowed to do on their period, could possibly make some girls consciously think about the restrictions imposed on them while on their period: but we weren’t expecting much. Ultimately, the survey was aimed at extracting information on the following things:

  • at what age they found out what periods were
  • who told them about periods
  • what they use on their periods
  • whether they attend school on their period
  • what they aren’t allowed to do on their period

There were a million outcomes we could think of; the many ways the survey wouldn’t go as planned. We could only find out after we went to the school the next day.

Tara from The REDefine Team

The First Talk: Our Collaboration with Parkshala

The team’s first outing with students from Parkshala

Dear reader,

We had our first talk with a group of roughly fifteen girls who became the most patient audience. They were students being tutored by an NGO known as Parkshala™.

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Parkshala™ is a charitable organization in Noida that tutors students who belong to a lower financial class and, in their own words, aim to “bridge the educational and moral gap between economically weak children and their affluent peers”.  We spoke to Priya Gupta, who teaches these students, and asked her whether we could talk to the girls who had had their periods as well as those who hadn’t. We were certain the girls would be a tad bit uncomfortable talking about menstruation in front of a boy, as they were. We wanted to show these girls that boys ought to be aware and sympathetic towards menstruation too. Not only should the topic be openly discussed with girls, it should be spoken about with everyone comfortably– and that it isn’t too much to hope for.

The three of us had planned to divide the biology portion, hygiene, myths, and taboos surrounding periods among ourselves. However, as the talk progressed, our aim became simply to make them understand and that led us all to interject and help each other out. We cracked jokes every now and then and received nervous chuckles, but it definitely helped break the ice. However, it was undoubtedly hard to vocalize certain terms relating to this topic in Hindi, but we were fortunate enough to have Parkshala’s own students help us explain the concept.

One thing we hadn’t anticipated was having to talk about sex. We had to explain the reason behind ovaries producing egg cells once a month; a concept we should have prepared before. Although they understood to an extent (especially with our hasty extempore), it was subsequently added to the talk. This experience however, has added to our knowledge and we are now prepared to talk about any thing relating to the topic of menstruation.

Upon concluding our talk, we distributed reusable pads made by Eco Femme. Our choice of pads had been mulled over for a long time. Reusable pads, if taken care of, can be used for 3 to 5 years. All that had to be done was a good soak overnight. Was there a higher chance of a rash or an infection? Both, yes and no. Cloth pads are softer, have fewer chemicals than the regular disposable pads we use and consequently have a lower probability of causing irritation. At the same time, these pads have to be washed at home. The water can be unsterile. There’s a possibility the pads aren’t cleaned for the appropriate time period. Storing conditions may be unhygienic. It really depends on the user. But, is it an eco-friendly option? Yes. Is it cost-effective? Definitely. These pads were received with mild curiosity and eagerness. It was a particularly satisfying moment. We noted down the names of the girls and the days they get their periods.

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We returned two weeks later to ask about the performance of the pads. Only one girl had used it so far but she gave a worrying review. The first day, she said, the pads were incredibly comfortable and she couldn’t tell she was wearing one. After only using a brush and water (not using the soaking method our team had prescribed), the pad began to irritate her skin. We immediately told them not to use the pads if that was the outcome. Although it was cleaning the pad that had been done incorrectly, other girls could make the same mistake and face the same problem.

The next time we visited the girls in the park, was to distribute biodegradable, disposable pads. These pads had been suggested by a resident in the society who claimed to know self-help group that manufactured these pads. Having received these pads, the team was eager to see what they looked like. What we saw left us in shock. Black and yellow stains decorated the surface of the pads and what seemed to be the absorbent material. It didn’t absorb the water we dropped on it. Once again, we recalled these pads from the girls: it would be too much to risk giving them these.

Although our interactions with the girls were short, we learned a lot as a team. Our agenda became far more solidified. We delved into research and poster-making to improve our content and resources.  This is our first experience as a team. It wasn’t a complete success, but unlike numerous groups and corporations, we are willingly sharing our short-comings. This will help fellow campaigners improve their own work and learn from the mistakes we made.

-The REDefine Group


We urge you to check out Parkshala’s work here: Parkshala on Facebook

Here are the promised links to the reusable pads we distributed in case you would like to purchase them: Reusable Pads by Eco Femme

Building a Social Movement from the Rubble

Here is the debutante of the REDefine campaign and how we began this program.

Dear reader,

We are elated to share this campaign with you and, if possible, inspire you to do the same in your own locality. As a team, we had very little to kickstart this campaign, and that’s why we decided to begin a blog. It served many purposes in our eyes: sharing our progress with the campaign, spreading the knowledge we have gained, and showing you the importance of being comfortable with topics like menstruation and female puberty. Although it isn’t our main objective, this blog will aid those in need of guidance to begin a campaign like this, from rock bottom.

After a lot of thought, we decided our campaign’s primary motives: spreading awareness about the biology behind menstruation, maintaining one’s hygiene while menstruating and debunking myths and taboos surrounding it. At the same time, we wish to provide better quality pads to the best of our abilities — and only to specific groups of girls. This will allow them to gain a perspective of the kinds of material they ought to use when menstruating because one must recognise that many will not have access to branded products like ‘Whisper’ and ‘Stayfree’.

However, to purchase pads, we had to go fundraising. Going from door to door, explaining what we aimed to do to people who may or may not be conservative was a challenging, but interesting task. It is normal to encounter people who are suspicious of your campaign, those who claimed to have already donated to another NGO and don’t feel the need to contribute to another, those who will give three coins as well as those who give nothing at all. Now and then, you will find a generous donor who will understand and support your cause. Luckily, we found more than five! With a small poster about our aims, the stigma around menstruation in India, and a red cylinder for the money we collected, we were more successful than we had hoped.

We were encouraged to continue making posters and eventually painted the female reproductive organ on an A3 sheet as well as paintings of what different types of period blood looks like and what it indicates. From there, we began our actual field work for the first time.

Stick with us a bit longer, why don’t you?

The REDefine Team