May 28, 2017
Remember your 10th grade Biology class when the teacher refused to talk about the female reproduction and the term ‘menstruation’? Dhagam foundation organized a campaign called ‘AVAL’, a woman empowerment project, focused on enlightening people about periods and the social perceptions and myths, women’s health and hygiene involved in menstruation.
The CSI School for the Deaf on Santhome High Road lightened up with the eminence of women’s strength and men’s equal contribution to breaking the barriers on a topic that was so shrouded with social stigma. The Chief Guests on the panel explained what menstruation is, how important it is to human reproduction and how it is false to regard it as something that has to be hidden and be ashamed of.
It was an interactive session with equal number of men and women posing their queries to the panelists and bringing out many issues relating menstruation to center stage.
While one of the panelists, Dr. Janani R, a medical officer for the Chennai Corporation explained menstruation and its process in medical terms, Geetha Ilangovan, the director of ‘Madhavidhai’, a documentary short film on Menstruation and one of the panelists, highlighted the importance of hygiene, proper disposal and gender-friendly toilets in the country.
Shocking the audience, she also revealed that only 20% of the women in our country use pads and the rest rely on cloth and other unhygienic measures. She refers to remote villages near Madurai and Theni when she talks of how even mobility and basic needs of women are constrained by needless myths. She calls her film as an endeavor for men about women.
Vaishali S, an Assistant Professor in SRM University slammed myths about impurity of women during her periods and said that in a world where infertility is such a rampant issue, menstruation should be understood in the way it is- a life giving blood. Ms. Ilangovan chimed in to add that it spreads no disease and has even been used in Stem cell research to save lives.
Panelists Raghavi Shankar, the founder of Headway Foundation and Social Activist Deepa Sheshadri highlighted myths about physical exercise during menstruation and points out the importance of fitness and healthy diet in the lives of women before and after puberty. “1 out of 5 women in the society have PCOS”, she observes. Ms. Sheshadri also commented on the 12% luxury tax on sanitary napkins saying that it shows the attitude of Government that sees this basic necessity of women as a luxury. “Government should give incentives for eco-friendly options and make it affordable just like they did with condoms”, she says.
The panelists saw this as a natural process of the body and believed that culture and religion is often distorted and misinterpreted as a means to exert power over women. M. S. Chandra Mohan, an activist with Arappor Iyakkam also gave a statement that it is important to break the glass ceiling by going against a society that shames a woman by refusing to let her enter into temples. “Enlightenment comes from breaking these religious shackles”, he said.