sex education in schools mumbai
periods. blood. menstruation. gross. secret.
sex education in schools mumbai, hidden. why? a natural biological process that every girl and womangoes through every month
for about half of her life. a phenomenon that is so significant that the survival and propagationof our species depends on it. yet we consider it a taboo. we feel awkwardand shameful talking about it. when i got my first periods, i was told to keep ita secret from others -- even from my father and brother. later when this chapterappeared in our textbooks,
our biology teacher skipped the subject. (laughter) you know what i learned from it? i learned that it is reallyshameful to talk about it. i learned to be ashamed of my body. i learned to stay unaware of periods in order to stay decent. research in various parts of india shows that three out of every 10 girlsare not aware of menstruation
at the time of their first periods. and in some parts of rajasthan this number is as high as nineout of 10 girls being unaware of it. you'd be surprised to know that most of the girlsthat i have spoken to, who did not know about periodsat the time of their first menstruation thought that they have got blood cancer and they're going to die soon. menstrual hygieneis a very important risk factor
for reproductive tract infections. but in india, only 12 percentof girls and women have access to hygienic waysof managing their periods. if you do the math, 88 percent of girls and women useunhygienic ways to manage their periods. i was one of them. i grew up in a small towncalled garhwa, in jharkhand, where even buying a sanitary napkinis considered shameful. so when i started getting my periods,
i began with using rags. after every usei would wash and reuse them. but to store them, i would hide and keep itin a dark, damp place so that nobody finds outthat i'm menstruating. due to repeated washingthe rags would become coarse, and i would often get rashesand infections using them. i wore these already for five yearsuntil i moved out of that town. another issue that periodsbrought in my life
was those of the social restrictions that are imposed upon our girlsand women when they're on their periods. i think you all must be aware of it, but i'll still list itfor the few who don't. i was not allowed to touch or eat pickles. i was not allowed to sit on the sofaor some other family member's bed. i had to wash my bed sheetafter every period, even if it was not stained. i was considered impure
and forbidden from worshipping or touchingany object of religious importance. you'll find signposts outside temples denying the entryof menstruating girls and women. ironically, most of the time it is the older woman who imposes such restrictionson younger girls in a family. after all, they have grown upaccepting such restrictions as norms. and in the absence of any intervention, it is the myth and misconception
that propagatefrom generation to generation. during my years of work in this field, i have even come across stories where girls have to eatand wash their dishes separately. they're not allowedto take baths during periods, and in some households they are evensecluded from other family members. about 85 percent of girlsand women in india would follow one or more restrictivecustoms on their periods every month. can you imagine what this does
to the self-esteemand self-confidence of a young girl? the psychological traumathat this inflicts, affecting her personality, her academic performance and every single aspect of growing upduring her early formative years? i religiously followed all theserestrictive customs for 13 years, until a discussion with my partner, tuhin, changed my perceptionabout menstruation forever. in 2009, tuhin and i were pursuingour postgraduation in design.
we fell in love with each other and i was at easediscussing periods with him. tuhin knew little about periods. he was astonished to knowthat girls get painful cramps and we bleed every month. yeah. he was completely shocked to know about the restrictions that are imposedupon menstruating girls and women by their own families and their society.
in order to help me with my cramps, he would go on the internetand learn more about menstruation. when he shared his findings with me, i realized how little i knewabout menstruation myself. and many of my beliefsactually turned out to be myths. that's when we wondered: if we, being so well educated, were so ill-informed about menstruation, there would be millions of girls out therewho would be ill-informed, too.
to study -- to understand the problem better, i undertook a year-long research to studythe lack of awareness about menstruation and the root cause behind it. while it is generally believed that menstrual unawarenessand misconception is a rural phenomenon, during my research, i found that it is as muchan urban phenomenon as well. and it exists with the educatedurban class, also.
while talking to manyparents and teachers, i found that many of them actuallywanted to educate girls about periods before they have startedgetting their menstrual cycle. and -- but they lackedthe proper means themselves. and since it is a taboo, they feel inhibitionand shameful in talking about it. girls nowadays get their periodsin classes six and seven, but our educational curriculum
teaches girls about periodsonly in standard eight and nine. teachers stillskip the subject altogether. so school does notteach girls about periods, parents don't talk about it. where do the girls go? two decades ago and now -- nothing has changed. i shared these finding with tuhinand we wondered: what if we could create something
that would help girls understandabout menstruation on their own -- something that would helpparents and teachers talk about periodscomfortably to young girls? during my research, i was collecting a lot of stories. these were stories of experiencesof girls during their periods. these stories would make girlscurious and interested in talking about menstruationin their close circle. that's what we wanted.
we wanted somethingthat would make the girls curious and drive them to learn about it. we wanted to use these storiesto teach girls about periods. so we decided to create a comic book, where the cartoon characterswould enact these stories and educate girls about menstruationin a fun and engaging way. to represent girlsin their different phases of puberty, we have three characters. pinki, who has not gotten her period yet,
jiya who gets her periodduring the narrative of the book and mira who has alreadybeen getting her period. there is a fourth character, priya didi. through her, girls come to knowabout the various aspects of growing up and menstrual hygiene management. while making the book, we took great care that none of the illustrationswere objectionable in any way and that it is culturally sensitive. during our prototype testing,we found that the girls loved the book.
they were keen on reading it and knowing more and moreabout periods on their own. parents and teachers werecomfortable in talking about periods to young girls using the book, and sometimes even boyswere interested in reading it. (applause) the comic book helpedin creating an environment where menstruation ceased to be a taboo. many of the volunteers took this prototypethemselves to educate girls
and take menstrual awareness workshopsin five different states in india. and one of the volunteerstook this prototype to educate young monks and took it to this monastery in ladakh. we made the final version of the book,called "menstrupedia comic" and launched in september last year. and so far, more than 4,000 girls have beeneducated by using the book in india and -- thank you. and 10 different countries.
we are constantly translating the bookinto different languages and collaborating with local organizations to make this book availablein different countries. 15 schools in different parts of india have made this booka part of their school curriculum to teach girls about menstruation. i am amazed to see how volunteers, individuals, parents,teachers, school principals, have come together
and taken this menstrual awarenessdrive to their own communities, have made sure that the girlslearn about periods at the right age and helped in breaking this taboo. i dream of a futurewhere menstruation is not a curse, not a disease, but a welcoming change in a girl's life. and i would -- and i would like to end this with a small requestto all the parents here.
dear parents, if you would be ashamed of periods, your daughters would be, too. so please be period positive.