India has been witnessing a change in the air, especially on social media, with the initiation of a dialogue around the social taboo — menstruation.
According to a study on menstrual health in India by FSG, a mission-driven consulting firm supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, there are over 355 million menstruating women and girls in the country, but millions of women across the country still face significant barriers to a comfortable and dignified experience with menstrual hygiene management (MHM).
A study also found that 71% of girls in India report having no knowledge of menstruation before their first period.
The hush-hush talks still persist within the communities that account for a large chunk of the country's conscience. In an attempt to put an end to the 'Period Poverty' by educating the masses on menstrual hygiene and to empower them with the means, Dr Sania Siddiqui established Humjoli Foundation.
Dr Siddiqui started her fight with spreading awareness on normalising the biological process that has been associated with several social myths for a very long time. She started with conversations debunking the myths; getting rid of the cover-up phrases like 'chumming', 'down or happy birthday' and encouraging people to speak out loud about the 'P' word.
She also voiced against the traditional social customs like isolating the women during their period days, prohibiting them from entering the kitchen or touching the pickle that has been followed for generations without any rationale.
A health and wellness coach who turned into a menstruation activist in Maharashtra's Pune, Dr Siddiqui started her community service journey in 2018 by joining an NGO to spread awareness about menstrual health management. However, unsatisfied with the way things were shaping up, she left the NGO to start her own initiative.
Menstrual health has been a very sensitive topic considering how the bigoted predators in the societies are always waiting to subdue the rising voices, however, the social changemaker decided to lead a one-woman army to transform the minds, young and old.
On realising the significance of community participation to break social stigmas, she started building her team of volunteers and also planned strategic awareness programmes. With ''Periods - Sharm Nahi, Shamta Hai" movement, she not only aims to make people aware of the significance of menstrual hygiene but also wants to save the lives that are being lost in the shadow due to a lack of knowledge.
"Several women have succumbed to grave menstrual issues like cervical cancers and it's about time people start talking about period hygiene rather than binding women in social stigmas," said Dr Siddiqui.
She has been continually reaching out to the masses through her community service programmes irrespective of the status and has conducted workshops for girls and boys in school, colleges and for women in corporate organizations too. Her workshops include crucial lessons such as the importance of hygiene during periods, what's normal and not during menstruating, diseases, infections due to poor menstrual hygiene, taboos, pro and cons of menstrual hygiene products and so on.
Today, Dr Siddiqui, along with the Humjoli Foundation, is successfully leading her mission with drives throughout the city and has reached out to more than 10,000 women and girls through workshops. She also believes that educating the opposite gender on 'the period guide' is as crucial as it is for the women.
She has conducted over 100 sessions, trained more than 270 volunteers and distributed over 5,000 sanitary napkins – all in one year. She was also felicitated with the 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao' Award in 2018.
To speak about an issue which is deemed unspeakable in many societies takes courage, proactiveness and intense persuasion, especially to make women address genuine period-related concerns. Dr Siddiqui however, has been successful in breaking barriers and making women say 'we are happy to bleed'.
This story has been received from Giving Circle. It is a platform that connects social change makers, donors, and volunteers. They are working to scale up these initiatives.
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