Fiza Banu, Saira Sheikh, and Misbah Khannum
Class 9, Citizens English School, Bengaluru
Even in 21st century India, we face the challenge of taboos around the natural process of menstruation. Many women feel uncomfortable talking about it openly. There are many superstitious beliefs that affect the women’s emotional state, lifestyle, and health and hygienic practices. We chose this topic because we, ourselves, have faced many problems during our periods.
We surveyed 20 women and girls in the community (mostly Muslims, plus Tamil-speaking people from other religions). The girls were our classmates of age 15. The women included teachers in our school, and mothers in our neighborhood.
Our questions ranged from very specific (e.g.: “Where are you not allowed to enter?”) to more open-ended (e.g.: “What do you feel when when you have periods?”).
Five women hesitated to talk to us. Others were responsive. They genuinely believed that their period blood is impure, and that they contaminate holy spaces such as prayer rooms/ temples if they enter. They also told us that during menstruation they were forbidden to do things like touching trees, looking into a mirror, applying perfume, entering kitchen, etc. These beliefs severely reduce the geographies of menstruating women.
We were not ready to accept these customs. So, we designed an awareness programme for people in and around our school. We spoke to our classmates, and went door to door in the neighborhood to talk about the biological process of menstruation and why and how it happens. We tried to convince them that there is no impurity associated with the menstrual cycle.