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How One Boy’s Realisation Led to a Campaign to Help Differently Abled Menstruating Girls

Girls with intellectual disabilities usually go through puberty at the same time as those without disabilities. Their level of understanding, however, may present a challenge to learning the skills necessary to manage their menses.

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Vinay Kumar,  who is from a small village, Nagla Raja in Etah district of Uttar Pradesh would have been a labourer today had it not been for a chance encounter with Amit Yadav – a differently abled young man who inspired him to help such people in our country.

Today Vinay is a Gandhi fellow who educates disabled girls about menstruation.

Vinay Kumar

Although Vinay’s parents wanted to educate him further, they did not have the resources for it. After class 12, he moved to Noida, where he became a construction worker. On an occasion back home, he met Amit, a law graduate who had polio. Amit was shocked to see Vinay employed as a construction worker because he remembered him to be a bright young student.

Amit urged him to give higher studies a shot and even offered to fund it. After some thought, Vinay was keen on becoming a journalist.

Vinay (right) with Amit Yadav (left)

“It is because of Amit Bhaiya that my dreams had wings. As I saw him working for the rights of disabled, I found that he was even more efficient than his able-bodied colleagues. This made me realise that disabled people can do wonders if we support them. I wanted to repay him by helping for the differently abled,” says Vinay.

After graduating in Media Studies from the University of Allahabad and getting a post graduation diploma in Advertising and Public Relations, Vinay was hired by the UP government to work in the Department of Information and Public relations. But his strong calling to aid the differently abled took him on a different path.

In 2016, Vinay left his government job. He applied for and succeeded in becoming a Gandhi fellow. He was given a project to work in the government schools of Mumbai and Thane.

Vinay with the kids of government school in Mumbai

As Vinay was also interested in theatre, he would often do dramas along with the slum kids who studied in these schools.

He wanted to do a drama with the disabled kids. His search took him to a particular school – Ummeed in Mumbra, Mumbai.

Mumbra has a large Muslim population, and it was a difficult task for Parvez, the founder of Ummeed to get the disabled girls out of their houses. However, Vinay soon mingled around the kids and started involving them in his stories.

But it was one incident that changed the course of Vinay’s teaching module.

While Vinay was talking to the director of the school, Rihana Salamat, a lady approached Rihana, asking if she could recommend a place where she can get her disabled daughter’s uterus removed.

Vinay – The storyteller at Ummeed, Mumbra

Initially, Vinay was under the impression that this was because of a medical condition but was shocked to learn that parents opt to remove their disabled daughter’s uterus to avoid the sanitation problems during menstruation and also to avoid the shame of getting impregnated if the child is molested.

“‘How can we deny something so natural’ was the first question I had in my mind,” says Vinay.

Vinay then contacted Shuma Banik, and Vijayata Pandey, another Gandhi fellows who were working against menstruation taboos in Surat with their campaign – Happy Periods. With their help, Vinay began to learn more about menstrual hygiene.


In collaboration with Aakar Innovations, The Better India is setting up a sanitary pad manufacturing unit in Ajmer, Rajasthan, that will not only produce eco-friendly or biodegradable sanitary pads, but will also employ women from rural communities around the area.

Contribute for the campaign here.

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He also came to know the hazardous side effects of removing one’s uterus at such an early age. Through his study, he learned that many girls had irregular menstruation cycles. However, their parents do not factor this while removing the uterus, often thinking it is linked to the disability. Moreover, as they are dependent on their mothers on these days, they are relieved if they don’t get their periods for few months.

“Periods are natural for girls. Just like how abled girls need medical help if they have irregular periods,  it is the same for these girls too,” informs Vinay.

After collecting all the information and lot of support from Rihana and the teachers of Ummeed, Vinay and Shuma designed a module to make these girls period ready.

The module was based on the following two outcomes of their research–

  1. Girls with intellectual disabilities usually go through puberty at the same time as those without disabilities. Their level of understanding, however, may present a challenge to learning the skills necessary to manage their menses. The approach to menstrual management in girls with disabilities should be the same as it is for other girls. Advice may need to be tailored according to the severity of the impairment.

2. Girls who can manage their toilet hygiene can usually learn to manage their menses independently. They need preparation for the menarche with information appropriate to their level of understanding. All girls need information provided in ways that are appropriate to their level of knowledge. Girls with disabilities require clear, direct information, and opportunities to practise new skills.

Project SAMARTH was designed for 40 disabled girls and their Mothers which was worked out in 4 phases :

  1. Awareness: Customizing the workshop according to the specially abled girls, like using picture comics, Menstrupedia to communicate with them.
  1. Teach & Practice the required skills: Enabling the girls to deal with menstruation by themselves without being dependent on others.
  1. Continuous tracking with the help of teachers and provide necessary support.
  1. Designing a specific syllabus where both the students and the mothers will be facilitated about the same in the school.

A team of three women teachers were under the supervision of the director of the School. Girls were divided into three groups according to their disability and taken care by these three teachers separately.

The team collected data from these girls’ health and awareness about menstrual hygiene.

“These teachers have strong bond and understanding with these girls because they teach and take care of them daily. When we found that there is almost no conversation among mothers and special girls regarding menstrual health is happening and most of the mothers are themselves not aware. We invited them for a workshop,” says Rihana.

Thirty-one specially challenged girls attended the workshop along with their mothers.

“When we started off with the workshop, everyone was shy and disinterested. They couldn’t even look at the video learning material that was being played. But as we proceeded, it was an eye-opening experience for us,” says Vinay.

The workshop was a huge success where mothers confessed that how they have been neglecting their own and their daughters’ menstrual health. Most of them were ignorant about menstruation and many questions related to it.

According to Shuma, the girls and their mothers started asking personal health questions without hesitation. It was sensed that all of them wanted to talk about this issue but have never been given a platform to discuss. Some of them agreed that they have been ignorant about menstruation and they have paid the price for it, but they won’t let their daughters suffer.

The girls were trained separately according to the type of disability.

For the children who with mental disabilities, the module was designed in such a manner that they will be told about it and asked to practice again and again to remember the steps. Helping the kids who were already toilet trained despite their disability was also not a difficult task. However, when it came to deaf and mute girls, Vinay and his team had to face some challenges.

“All the special teachers who knew sign language were males, and we wanted female teachers to communicate with them to make them comfortable initially. Moreover, there is no sign language made specially to describe menstruation as it is never taught to these kids,” says Vinay.

However, the team was relieved when one of the girls who could not hear or speak took up the challenge. Once she was taught about it through a comic book, she not only understood it but also helped her mates understand it in her way.

“This was really a proud moment for me. I felt as if we have crossed one hurdle and helped these girls reach at least to a place where they are confident to speak about their own body,” says Rihana.

One to One Counselling

One to one sessions for special girls and mothers was conducted to cater specific challenges as disability varies among them. A gynaecologist was also present at this meeting where mothers discussed their problems and challenges faced during menstrual management of their daughters.

The Doctor solved the queries and referred some of them to clinical treatment as well.  The Samarth team kept track of the parents’ visit to the clinic along with the prescribed medicines.

The team also collaborated with Rehmania Hospital in Mumbra to provide the cheapest/free treatment and counselling.

In upcoming months these girls and mothers will be on the team’s follow up and tracking system. They will be ensuring that mothers help girls in practising steps required for menstrual management. They will also continuously keep in touch with them to know the challenges they are facing during this time and support them accordingly.

Vinay and his team are in the process of designing separate modules for children with various disabilities to teach about menstruation to individual kids and their mothers in the school. They are also planning to conduct similar sessions in all the schools of Mumbai soon.

“I think just like we remember the birthdays and anniversaries of our mothers, wives, sisters or daughters; we must also remember their menstruation date and be more sensitive towards them in those days. Only when men and women both will be aware, we would be able to have a happy society and Happy periods,” says Vinay with a smile.`

Know more about Happy Periods here. you can also contact Vinay Kumar on 9717215950.


In collaboration with Aakar Innovations, The Better India is setting up a sanitary pad manufacturing unit in Ajmer, Rajasthan, that will not only produce eco-friendly or biodegradable sanitary pads, but will also employ women from rural communities around the area.

Contribute for the campaign here.

Unable to view the above button? Click here


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Written by Manabi Katoch

A Mechanical Engineer-turned-writer, Manabi finds solace in writing stories about unsung heroes. Nothing makes her happier than the impact emails from her readers. Other than writing, she loves listening to the stories told by her six year old daughter. Manabi can be reached at manabi@thebetterindia.com. You can also find her tweets @manabi5