In observance of Menstrual Hygiene Day, which is observed worldwide, Youngistaan Foundation’s Gender Program hosted a virtual session to educate young men and women about periods, myths and taboos, to discuss the Action and Investment in Menstrual Hygiene and Health. The session brought together close to 300 participants on Zoom while the event was streamed live reaching over 20,000 participants through the foundation’s social media platforms.
S.N. Nalli, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Institutions Specialist, UNICEF Hyderabad Field Office for Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana, Dr. P. Manikanta, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Institution Consultant UNICEF Hyderabad Field Office for Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana, Dr Manjula Anagani, Padmashree Awardee, Gynecologist, Obst, Lap Surgeon, TED X Speaker, Maya Vishwakarma, Founder and President, Sukarma Foundation and Arun Daniel Yellamaty, Founder & CEO, Youngistaan Foundation.
The event started with live music by Anusha Mondol. Speaking on the scenario on how menstruation is perceived across the world, S. R. Nalli of UNICEF India spoke to the participants about the initial changes that boys and girls go through at puberty, and asked people to notice the differences. “Around age twelve, boys and girls start to change. But while boys are proud to start showing off their moustaches, girls shy away and have rules, restrictions and prohibitions placed upon them.”
Much alarm and concern has been expressed at how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting menstrual health and Dr. Manikanta took the participants through the various ways that the pandemic is changing menstrual health followed up by the practical steps that individuals, hospitals, stores, organizations, etc. can adopt to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 upon menstrual health. His 5-step action plan included: access to information, access to sanitary hygiene products, access to facilities and services, assessment of the situation and special interventions, and special attention for girls and women with disabilities.
A robust question-and-answer session with Dr. Manjula Anagani addressed questions from the mostly young participants about the pros and cons of different menstrual products and the environmental impact of each of these upon menstrual health. “Normalizing menstruation is the first step to addressing menstrual hygiene” was the common thread in the answers Dr. Manjula Anagani provided on the questions that ranged from premature menopause to the changes that women’s menstrual cycles undergo post-COVID-recovery.
After a series of Q&A, Shruthika Chowdary, slam poet, reinstated the objectives of the event by performing a piece on shattering myths and taboos surrounding periods. Maya Vishwakarma described her inspiring journey from her village in Madhya Pradesh to the United States where she noticed the stark differences between the approaches of young women to menstruation and the availability of menstrual products. On her own, Maya Vishwakarma decided to break the taboo on menstruation through her organization which focuses on providing education, access to free sanitation material, eradicating taboos and reducing period poverty.
Youngistaan Foundation’s founder Arun Daniel Yellamaty closed the session by talking about his personal experience as a child during a time when menstruation was not discussed in schools, and compared this experience with schools nowadays that have begun to encourage children to discuss and ask questions about menstruation. He encouraged more boys and men to educate themselves about menstruation and address their curiosity about menstruation by asking questions to elders and/or teachers.
Sharing the learnings of the event, Kandula GeethaSri, a college student said “I have learnt a lot from today’s session. Most importantly to stay healthy, use a menstruation cup, follow a good diet and exercise to stay fit”. Vimal, a story-teller who attended the event said “The event was very nicely organised and provided valuable information. After listening to the topic of sustainable menstruation, I am inspired to give menstrual cups as a gift to women in my life.