A 13-year-old girl from a Maharashtra village, who started menstruating four months ago, did certain things that traditionally women are not allowed to do during periods. She found out that it changes nothing.
Dhanashree Kantaram Dhere’s school held a period myth busting class, which taught her that menstruation does not make a girl impure. She then decided to test what she had learned.
During her period, the girl touched the figure of a Hindu God in her house. While she had always heard her elders saying that it is a sign of bad luck, nothing bad happened to her
Busting popular misconceptions around menstruation, Dhanashree learnt that periods are healthy and a part of maturing into a woman. She learnt the science behind the whole process as opposed to what normally girls hear about periods. For example, things like, girls cannot enter the kitchen, prayer rooms, family restricts their movement in the house and that they cannot touch pickles etc.
It is to counter these baseless myths that the Maharashtra government has ordered all village schools to have sessions to teach the reality around menstruation.
“I learned in school that nothing would happen if I touched food, so I did,” she recalled. “Nothing happened.”
“So, I also touched a god’s idol after that,” she said.
This obviously got varied reactions from her friends and family, but the fact that nothing happens is what stuck with Dhanashree.
Not an easy ride
But it hasn’t been an easy ride for the schools. Initially, Unicef started the campaign in two of Maharashtra’s districts—Jalna and Aurangabad. Then they collaborated with the state government to widen the approach. Currently, about 3 lakh girls have attended classes on menstruation in two years in seven districts of the state.
But there were cultural barriers as well. Even the teachers had to have a free mindset for the classes for which Unicef sent its trainers.
“The teachers had a lot of inhibitions and believed the myths themselves,” said Bharathy Tahiliani, a rights campaigner who drafted the menstruation lesson plans.
“Around 80 per cent of the teachers believed that menstrual blood is impure,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The course is a six-month long process which largely contains only girls except for one session where the boys also join to watch an educational video. Apart from the theoretical knowledge, the teachers also incorporate song, games and drama to make the course more interesting.
Apart from the fact that girls learn about their own body’s functioning better, it also reduces the number of girls dropping out of school because of periods. Lack of knowledge about periods also leads to girls using unhygienic methods that can lead to life-threatening diseases.
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