Global Menstrual Hygiene Day: A Daughter’s response to her Mother

By Vinitha Venkatraman

  • Thank you Ma for not being silent
  • Thank you Ma for making it your mission to speak to me when I was 10
  • Thank you Ma for not making me feel that it was ‘dirty’
  • Thank you Ma for protecting me from the religious dogma around menstruation
  • Thank you Ma for telling me about menstruation through the birds and bees story that made it all the more interesting
  • Thank you Ma for inspiring me to talk to my girlfriends, normalizing menstruation for them
  • Thank you Ma for making ‘getting your chums’ something to look forward to
  • Thank you Ma for being you

I wish every girl has a mother like you!

With 54% girls saying that mothers are the main source of information regarding menstruation and over 50% of girls unaware prior to menstruating, it is imperative to throw light on the time, content and delivery of information.

Yes, it is significant for girls to KNOW about menstruation before they get it.

It is imperative that the information is ACCURATE and girls know how to MANAGE it.

It is equally vital that every girl is made to FEEL GOOD about getting her chums.

While I believe in every girl’s right to information about menstruation – that she must be empowered with knowledge and ‘right emotion’ towards it, let’s take a moment to look at the controversial perspective. Sometimes I wonder, why so much hue and cry around something so natural, a biological phenomenon that 100% of women are faced with (there is no probability there), an occurrence that is part of every girl’s growing up. Hence the questions – What is so special? Why so much discussion? Are we not sensationalizing the issue? Is it really needed?  It is arguable that if women have faced it for generations, why the emphasis now?

Here is the answer!

With 70% of mothers thinking that menstruation is dirty, we have a whole lot of work to do. It is time to talk, initiate a dialogue and have a conversation.

Normalizing menstruation, breaking the taboo and getting people to talk is half the battle won. Because when women (or even men for that matter) start talking and break away from the concepts of impurity and shame associated with the topic, it opens up a world of information before them, information that they will be ready to listen to, accept and comprehend. It opens up possibilities like never before.  While there is enough controversy around the topic – it doesn’t take away from the fact that the menstrual health and management value chain is key:

  • Awareness: Girls must be aware before their time, and feel right about it
  • Access: Girls and their mothers must have access to sanitary pads or other bio degradable products – it should be available, affordable, they should know where to get it
  • Use: Knowledge on how to use pads / alternate products and maintenance of hygiene is key
  • Waste Management: With huge environmental implications, awareness on disposal is imperative

Let us rise together for better menstrual health and hygiene management.

Globally, 28th May is observed as Menstrual Hygiene Day to call attention to and normalize menstruation.

Let’s demystify. Let’s talk.

(Vinitha Venkatraman, Co-Founder of VIVA Development Strategies, a development sector think tank that provides turnkey solutions in the area of social responsibility and development. Prior to this, Venkatraman was the Joint Director (IEC), at the Mumbai branch of National AIDS Control Organization. She started off her career as a media professional at the Times of India Group and switched to the development sector owing to her passion to put her experience and skills sets to good use and make a difference in the development sector.)