Can you remember being taught about menstruation during your school days?
Not the scientific definition, but a more informative explanation on the topic instead of a rushed session? Or even worse, having classes for girls and boys separately?
Sadly, the topic of menstruation remains something that we, as a society, don’t openly discuss. Nor is there much public awareness about sanitary health issues pertaining to it.
For representational purposes. Source: Flickr
There have been many campaigns over the years that have actively voicing out against the taboos linked to the biological process that every woman goes through, despite the social stigma.
A group of youngsters in Kerala are now breaking out of these taboos. They have teamed up to bring about collective change by setting up platforms that encourage discussions about menstruation in schools and colleges across the state and, more importantly, raise awareness amongst children.
Going by the moniker “The Red Cycle”, the organisation began its initial activities on social media with a Facebook page titled “Let’s talk about menstruation”, welcoming discussions, doubts and debates.“During my school days, I can’t remember being part of any discussion that involved menstruation”, says Arjun Unnikrishnan, one of the founders.
A law student in Mysuru, Arjun mentions that the first session he ever conducted for students, on being encouraged by his teacher, was during his class XII days. It ended up being an utter disaster. “I’d hardly prepared for it and now when I think of it, I had not yet realised the extent of impact that we could make through these forums”, he laughs.
Meemansa Singh, one of the core team members, amidst a session.
Teaming up with friends from his college and the Medical College in Kozhikode, Arjun and the Red Cycle team has organised many sessions in schools and colleges across Kozhikode and Malappuram. Contrary to the first session that lacked research and conviction, the team has been making waves in both public and social space effectively.
Sreya Salim, another member of the Red Cycle team, is a medical student, helps with discussions concerning menstrual health and the medical aspects pertaining to it. She is also the founder of The Haiku, a microtale campaign that was initiated to bring an end to period shaming.
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“It wasn’t just the topic of menstruation. Our idea was to make it something one could openly discuss, without feeling humiliated or embarrassed. Why should one be ashamed to talk about something that is a biological process?” Arjun says.
Many of their friends have turned volunteers and help the team with the campaign and sessions .
Clockwise from left: Arjun Unnikrishnan, Aparna Divakar, Sreya Salim and Memansa Singh. Inset: The Red Cycle logo.
As part of International Women’s Day this year, the Red Cycle team had a chance to be part of a daylong festival `Celebrate Menstruation’ in Thiruvananthapuram, collaborating with other menstrual educators and campaigners like Thanal Trust, The Haiku, CodeRed and Happy To Bleed; an event that was organised by the Sustainable Menstruation Kerala Collective (SMKC).
“Apart from educating students about the sustainable and alternative products to sanitary napkins, along with the hazardous aspects of using the napkins; we had also paired up with various SHGs, whose stalls featured products like menstrual cup, reusable and eco-friendly products and reusable cloth pads”, Arjun adds.
Calling Arunachalam Muruganantham, famously known as the Pad Man of India, as a great source of inspiration for the path the have taken towards greater awareness in the society, Arjun says that this is not something he plans on taking up as a career but rather continuing for public good.
“This campaign is our service to the society that still ostracises women for something that is purely natural and not in their control. It’s about time that people really leave behind the age-old norms and snap of the taboos”, Arjun insists.
Talking more about pads being tax-free and various initiatives that the government should take towards promoting healthier and better menstrual alternatives, Arjun mentions that the Red Cycle team tries to promote sanitary napkins made by SHGs(Self Help Groups), in an added effort to help these families sustain their livelihoods. “Contrary to the profit-driven companies that sell pads for mass consumption, these are safe to use”, Arjun adds.
Apart from Arjun and Sreya, the core team consists of Meemansa Singh, who is Arjun’s college mate and Aparna Divakar, an active #HappyToBleed activist.
On further plans, Arjun mentions that the team will actively campaign for more governmental intervention towards menstrual awareness and health concerns and voice-out against mass-produced, plastic-based napkins that are not just a matter of grievous concern for the environment but the personal health of women as well.
To get in touch with The Red Cycle, click here.