It’s an uncomfortable subject, shrouded in shame and secrecy. “More than half of urban Indian women face menstrual taboos,” says Aditi Gupta, founder of Menstrupedia.com, who was declared as one of the Forbes India 30 Under 30 Achievers this year.
“Over 65 per cent of Indian women feel that monthly periods comes in the way of achieving their full potential. Over 48 per cent of those residing in north India don’t share the room with their husband during menstruation. Only 12 per cent women use sanitary napkins. They are not allowed to enter temples, and are made to sleep on the floor during their periods,” says Ahmedabad-based Gupta.
The 29-year-old started the online website in 2012 as a friendly informative guide on periods. Gupta’s personal experiences acted as a starting point for the mission. “In spite of coming from an educated background, this was a hush-hush subject in my household. I would use rags and end up with infection,” says Gupta, who grew up in Garhwa, Jharkhand. A New Media graduate from National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, her research on menstrual awareness in Gujarat led her to work on the Menstrupedia project.
Together with her artist-storywriter husband, Tuhin Paul, Gupta created a 90-page comic book on the subject, besides a website and a blog. Menstrupedia.com today has over a lakh shares a month from across
Gupta admits it is extremely challenging, especially when it comes to talking to people about it. “For instance, our volunteer took the comic book to nuns at a Buddhist monastery in Ladakh. They were hesitant at first, but after reading it, they wanted more to pass on to other women and girls,” says Gupta.
It will take decades to change attitudes, but as a social entrepreneur, she dreams of a future where menstruation is not a taboo.