#GirlTalk is SheThePeople’s advice column. Have a question? Send it to us girltalk@shethepeople.tv – It can be anonymous if you’d like it that way. Women from different walks of life share advice and their personal experience to help you overcome your own inhibitions. In this series, today we are partnering with Save the Children India (STC) which works for rights of children and young girls. From the STC India team, their young advocates share experiences how to deal with period stigma, PMS.

Shalini Sahu is a 24 years old youth advocate, and flag-bearer for sexual and reproductive health from a small village in Odisha who went on to attend the Women Deliver 2019 Conference in Vancouver, Canada in 2019 where she learned the role of young people in leading the change and the nuances of  Sexual & Reproductive Health (SRH) issues.

“During my period, the members of my community followed several superstitious practices like denying me entry to temples, asking me not to leave the house or even attend school or college. They also follow several other dogmatic practices like not touching individuals from the other sex, these have no scientific explanation or backing. These practices are an extra burden and pain that all young girls suffer from on top of the stigma that beholds our society. These practices often restrict girls and women from performing their tasks and negatively impact their overall productivity. We must break away from the stereotypes that deny girls their freedom and empower them. I hope to eradicate these traditional stereotypes and customs someday.”

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Dear Girl Talk, What is Period Stigma?

Period stigma is what society, people at large ‘attach’ to menstrual

Saleha Khan an 18-year-old champion from the slums of Govandi, Mumbai has been shattering the stigma around menstruation. She was also selected as an Ashoka Youth Venturer and was also nominated for the International Peace Prize. Additionally, she went on to be nominated as a Goalkeeper in 2018 by the prestigious Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Here’s what she went through.

“I often don’t attend college while I am PMSing as my parents tell me not to do so. We are made to follow specific practices such as not touching pickles or entering the masjid during our menstrual cycle. I believe it is vital to provide our society with correct information so they can distinguish right from wrong. In addition to educating girls about periods, boys should also receive knowledge regarding the same. During my cycle, cramps and period pains often affect my education and work every month for 3-4 days, and this affects my overall capacity to work on some days. But it is hard to communicate with members of my family. Thus, another challenge I frequently face regarding menstruation is talking frankly and freely with my parents about menstruation. Especially during the lockdown, where we have been constrained in our homes, it is hard to change our pads when our fathers are around or mention cramps. It is essential that parents, especially fathers and other members of the family, understand these issues properly to improve communication further and candidly discuss our problems without shame. This is only possible if both men and women are adequately educated and informed about menstruation and other SRHR issues.”

GIRL TALK X Save the children
Period stigma mostly begins at home. As both Saleha and Shalini said, the change has to come from within and by advocacy. We need to talk to elders, peers and family members more about period pain, stigma, PMS etc. The more we discuss the more we normalise it. 

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