As a country, we have come a long way in opening up and bringing attention to women's basic menstrual needs but this story tells us the realities that women still face on a day to day basis. Women of the village of Gududi, around 30 kms from the Daringbadi block in Odisha used open spaces for bathing, thus finding it very difficult to wash properly especially during menstruation. They only had old saris or bedsheets to use for their periods.
In monsoons when there wasn't enough dry clean cloth they used large leaves to hold their menstrual cotton cloth. With heavy rains, a clean dry cloth was a challenge and most ended up wearing wet cloth causing many infections. In addition, they face many taboos e.g a menstruating woman can't talk to a male family member and women don't eat nutritious food during menstruation, leading to health issues like anaemia etc.
When our team heard the stories of these women in our 'Chuppi todo baitahk' (Break the silence meetings) we urged them to take action. The women first came together to create safe bathing spaces. They are now bathing comfortably in the temporary bathrooms.
They shared that our menstrual awareness sessions made them realise the importance of wearing clean clothes and eating nutritious food and they started using the Goonj daris as floor mats when they are supposed to sleep on the ground during menses. They were overjoyed to receive MY Pads (Goonj cloth pads) in the family kits as they find the market pads unaffordable, especially during Covid.
The best part is that inspired by their actions women in a nearby village have also made some temporary bathrooms while these women are now demanding a permanent bathing space from the gram panchayat office.
Menstruation is a human issue, Not a women's issue. We are There. Need You too.
Also Read: Not Just A Piece Of Cloth: Menstrual Hygiene In Disaster-Prone Environment