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08Mar2017

Destroying The Stigma Of Periods With The ‘Gift A Menstrual Cup’ Campaign

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Ever since I can remember being a part of this world, I have always been reminded repeatedly that I was born a girl.

“A girl shouldn’t sit like that” my 3rd grade teacher once told me, before proceeding on to demonstrate how a straight back with crossed legs was the ‘lady-like’ way to sit.

I never noticed any teacher telling a boy how to sit or to not be loud, whereas girls were policed about how they should talk, be non-disruptive and behave like ‘ladies’ in general.

As I grew up and feminism rescued me from a very dangerous thought process, I realised the fact that everything a girl does is seen as explicit by the society (a society that we contribute to, by the way).

We have been systematically taught that it is shameful to be a girl. Everything should happen behind closed doors and yet is secretly lusted after anyway in public. Naturally it escalates into full-blown misogyny towards even the most natural of things, like menstruation.

God forbid a tampon falls out of our bag in a metro or we carry Pads without the black polythene the shopkeeper so kindly offers. All this is necessary, believe me, or otherwise the world might just find out that half of its population bleeds every 28 days.

The shame and stigma that we associate with Periods (yes I said the word) is blatantly obvious in the euphemisms we use, ‘chumming’, ‘on the rag’, ‘I’m down’.. a few of at least 5,000 such slang words that we chose to use instead of just calling them periods.

And let’s not even touch upon the subject of period taboos, a whole thesis on how a woman is impure and what she should or should not do during her cycle. And all of this dictated by a handful of people, who sit hiding behind the veil of privilege and ‘good sense’.

Just when we think there is no end to this regressive mindset, we have non-profits and activists actively propagating women’s safety, rights and sanitation (while also restoring our faith into humanity).

There have been age-old movements and rebellions that have successfully enabled the world to move on from the times when women weren’t even allowed to vote or have a voice.

One such modern-day initiative, #Letstalkperiod – Gift a Menstrual Cup, is challenging the very ground of ignorance for menstrual health.

Created by Woman Endangered and Stone Soup, it challenges period taboos and superstitions while addressing the issue of human health crisis that stems from repeated use of commercial pads or tampons over decades. It does this by distributing menstrual cups free-of-cost.

Why Menstrual Cups?

Studies have found that a woman uses a pad or a tampon for more than 100,000 hours in a lifetime. And that’s just the minimum estimate!

Yet we don’t talk about the chemical residue these products leave on the vaginal walls which can cause serious diseases such as cancer.

India accounts for 27 percent of deaths caused by cervical cancer, which is twice the global average. And the study links the cause partly to poor menstrual hygiene.

Amidst all of this, menstrual cups provide a safer, eco-friendly and economical option for women all over. It simply holds the period fluid, which can be emptied, and cup can be reused again.

The medical grade silicone used to make these cups, is infection-free and does not irritate the vaginal walls or pose any health risk by leaving residue.

After a one-time cost, it can be washed and reused for up to 10 years. Since, a single cup lasts that long, it greatly reduces the amount of menstrual waste generated to be disposed-off.

Benefits Of Using A Menstrual Cup

  • Made from medical grade silicone which reduces risk of infection since it is also anti-bacterial – a quality otherwise not seen in other materials.
  • It is bell-shaped and does not irritate the vaginal walls, as it is adjustable and easy to insert/remove.
  • Simply holds period fluid and can be washed to be reused 2 to 3 times a day and is easy to store.
  • Lasts from 8 to 10 years and reduces the hassle of disposing of used menstrual materials
  • Reduces the burden on environment by reducing waste generation.

Menstruation health issues are probably the most stigmatized and ignored topic, even in the 21st Century. And this is exactly what the #LetsTalkPeriod campaign aims to destroy.

The agenda is simple:

  • Provide a sustainable menstrual alternative to pads and tampons which is a silicone menstrual cup
  • Distribute these medical grade silicone cups free-of-cost to the most marginalized sections of women
  • Address the ignorance and stigma around periods which has forced women to suffer in silence for years.

Joining hands with the crowdfunding platform DesiredWings.com, WE and Stone Soup have launched a crowdfunding campaign that aims to raise enough funds to organize a free-of-cost distribution of menstrual cups in Azadpur in New Delhi.

Aiming to distribute 1000 cups to 1000 women or even more, they want to target this health, environment and mental crisis at the grass root level.

In a time where period blood is still depicted as a ‘blue liquid’ gently splashed upon fluffy pads and any close-to-reality depiction is deemed inappropriate (not a family dinner conversation apparently), we need to stand up for menstrual health.

It’s time each of us contribute to the Gift A Menstrual Cup – Let’s Talk Period campaign, and destroy a few stereotypes ourselves!

About the Author:

A feminist at heart, Tarushi Varma believes change starts with just one person. So, raise your voice, stand up for yourself because you have it in you to make the world a better place.

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