Hum bolenge, muh kholengeTabhi zamana badlega! With this slogan on menstruation, hundreds of schoolgirls marched around Connaught Place’s Central Park on Tuesday.
Carrying red sashes and cardboard cut-outs of sanitary pads, the girls — from classes VIII, IX and XI of 50 government and Navyug schools — were participating in a ‘Pad’ Yatra in a Period Fest, held to raise awareness about menstrual health. “We’re feeling really happy and proud to be out speaking publicly about periods today. We’re really not embarrassed to be walking out in the streets with our message. Menstruation is a matter of pride,” said Samta, a Class XI student.
Members of the group performed plays and dances in celebration of the birth of girl children as well as periods. A character in a play asked: “Are periods really torture for us? The moment that we get it, we have to face so many restrictions — we’re not allowed to play, enter temples and eat what we want.”
Another character replied: “It is not torture in itself. It’s these ideas which have been unquestioningly passed down to us which are the problem. Periods are a step in our development.”
But then, a lot of these girls already knew this. “We’ve been having these conversations in school since class VI. Yes, there was a time when we thought it’s dirty, and other classmates used to make fun. By now we know not to be ashamed. But it’s nice to be here since other people can also hear these messages,” said Muskaan, a class VIII student. These schools are also the ones where NGO Sachhi Saheli, which organised the fest, has been conducting menstrual awareness workshops.
According to Rikita Narula from Sachhi Saheli, the intent was to bring such conversation to the centrestage. “Conversation around this topic, when they happen, are secretive. We wanted to bring it to the centre of the city and make it a celebration to get more people involved in the dialogue. The lack of knowledge can be damaging to the psyche of girls,” she said.
What a lot of girls didn’t know about were the range of menstrual hygiene products that exist. Stalls displaying and explaining products such as menstrual cups and reusable sanitary pads lined the park. “I’m open to trying them if they are made available to us,” said Dimple, a Class XI student.
Boys from co-ed schools were barely present. “We didn’t ask that schools send only girls, which shows that there are still gaps and work to be done,” said Narula.