“For a woman living on the streets, getting a period is more than just a hassle. It is a matter of comfort, cleanliness, and dignity. With no access to tampons and pads and no comfortable place to bathe, they are forced to get creative with ways to keep clean. They use socks, paper towels, plastic bags, or clothing in place of hygiene products and the struggle is not over here; they wash them in ice-cold water and re-use them,” says founder and Chief Editor of Indian Women Blog (IWB), Anastassiya Savchenko.
To help some of these underprivileged women in easing the pain during their menstrual cycle, the IWB team collaborated with Seema Pardeshi-Khandale to distribute “Winter Care Packages” consisting of a warm shawl, a pair of woollen socks, an antiseptic soap and chocolates.
This drive, undertaken by IWB and Seema in December 2017, was called the ‘Cold Period,’ since periods are especially challenging to women who do not have access to necessary hygiene facilities.
It aimed to educate women on the nature of a menstrual cycle, female hygiene, and how menstrual cups could be the solution they seek.
Seema is a homemaker turned eco-warrior who has developed an economical menstrual cup, at half the market price. She calls this product ‘Rutu’ which means season in Marathi.
“I specifically wanted a common Marathi word for the menstrual cup which could be easily understood by the women from any level of our society. Rutu is a perfect meaningful word which I found, that explained the meaning of our monthly menstrual cycle,” says Seema.
The team approached some women who were keen on learning about their bodies, menstrual cups, and their usages, says Anastassiya. They even spread the word and eventually, 50 women attended the first session of Cold Period. The women were curious about how the female body functioned and about this newly introduced product and did not hesitate in asking questions to the team.
“[Seema] brought a model of the uterus and she answered all their questions to their satisfaction demonstrating every little detail,” she said.
“She explained, using the model, how a menstrual cup is used and where exactly does it stay in the body. She explained them the pros of using menstrual cups over a cloth.”
The women warmed up to the team and were extremely receptive to what they had to explain. Pads and tampons both are too expensive for these women who live hand to mouth. They rely on waste plastic and cloth instead, which they reuse without adequately disinfecting them.
Menstrual cups are a welcome change for them since they can last up to 15 years, and get sufficiently clean with hot or cold water.
Anvita is one of the Cold Period team members who did a short recce of the areas where homeless people inhabit in groups. She visited these places a day in advance and introduced the women to the mission of Cold Period. She urged women and men to join the session the next day.
“Men were extremely understanding and encouraging,” said Anastassiya. “They were supportive of their wives being a part of the campaign, and some of them also collected kits on their wives’ behalf.
Men helped us in gathering women for the session and finding [an] area to conduct the session by the footpath.”
There’s usually some stigma around menstruation in many strata of society. In some occasions, men have shied away from this topic, not allowing for a chance to get rid of misunderstandings. However, this drive was a fresh change.
“It was interesting to see some men making guest appearances to understand the topic of discussion. While the inhibited women were shooing them away, our team encouraged the young sons and husbands to sit and be a part of the movement.”
The team also urges people to join in their campaigns in Ludhiana, Jammu, and Delhi. Not only can they help in the distribution of Winter Care Packages, but they also educate people on menstrual cycles and the benefits of a menstrual cup.