When schoolgirls start menstruating, they are in quite a fix. They do not know how to deal with wearing pads and refrain staining at times. Hence, schools which can afford adequate educational facilities, train girls into dealing with menstruation. Both sex education and menstruation help is provided via tutorials so that girls don’t face a problem managing themselves during that time of the month.
Image: The Better India
However, children from slums do not have proper knowledge as to how they can deal with it. Girls generally start menstruating from secondary school grades. Two women who were fellows with the Teach for India campaign noticed a decline among girls in higher classes. Many girls who come from weaker financial backgrounds cannot even afford sanitary napkins. They have no alternative but to use a cloth, which results in staining. The girls therefore end up staying home for a week every month so that they don’t have to face embarrassment.
Not being present for a week every month does certainly results in missing out on a lot, and technically, the grades start going down as this continues. When they don’t perform well, their parents eventually take them off school, as educating a girl child is still considered a burden in the lower economic strata of the socirty. Noticing this and striving to bring a change, Ayesha Alam and Sarva Damani started project Mukti.
The number of girls in class 3 and 4 was 30 in a class of 60, which was equal to the number of boys. It declined in higher classes and ultimately only 10 girls appeared for SSC exams.
The girls then started educating the girls in menstrual health and have impacted the lives of 425 girls and 105 women. There was a lot that even their mothers did not know, as to what is menstruation all about and why it happened.
They started teaching them about basic hygiene, menstruation’s affects on the body, managing stress and also safe and unsafe touch. To their surprise, they even found out that some were being abused in their families. They later started visiting slums and didn’t restrict themselves to just schools to educate their mothers too.
Tiny steps like this help bringing a bigger change. These slum girls are now standing up for their rights, refusing to get married at 18, maintaining proper hygiene and sanitation and also concentrating on careers more than anything else!