This is a winning entry of our writing contest on “Periods in Pandemic” by Namitha N.

“Naveen, can you please help me with testing these samples if yours is done?” Divya asked.

“Oh Divya, come here and have a look at mine. There are tonnes of samples for me to test, I’m fed up!” said Naveen.

“That’s ok, this pandemic has actually put us under a lot of stress…samples that were to be tested in 2 days are to be tested within 12 hours now! This PPE kit is my biggest problem, I’m dying inside this…can’t even imagine getting out of this thing at the end of the day,bathed in sweat!”

Divya, a 25-year-old microbiologist was sharing her problems with Naveen, her colleague. Indeed, COVID-19 has put every person under stress and pain, and among the most affected people are healthcare workers.

“Divya, we are running out of IHC. Let me go and check if we have some in stock. Otherwise, we will have to stop today’s work,” Naveen informed Divya as he entered the storeroom.

Haan ok.”

Divya was concentrating on her work when all of a sudden she felt like something was hitting her stomach strongly from the inside. Soon, she felt dizzy. While Naveen was coming back, he saw Divya losing her balance and falling backwards.

“Hey Divya, what happened to you? Didn’t you have your breakfast today?” Naveen suddenly caught hold of her and seated her in a chair.

“No, I’m okay…get me some water please?” she replied tiredly.

It was then when Naveen noticed that she was clutching her stomach with her arms. “You look so tired! Why are you holding your stomach like that?” he asked.

“I’ll tell you Naveen, first get me some water please?”

“Oh sorry I’ll be right back.”

Divya was confused about how she would tell Naveen that she got her periods and that she did not have a sanitary napkin with her.

“Here it is.” Naveen handed the glass to her. “Now tell me what’s your problem?”

“Naveen…I’m on my periods and it hurts here inside my abdomen. I didn’t expect it to come right now,” Divya murmured in pain.

“Ok, does it hurt a lot?” asked Naveen.

“It feels as if someone is hitting me from inside my stomach and my PCOS is making this even worse. I can’t help this…and I’m not carrying a sanitary pad right now. I’ll have to go out and get one. Most of the time I carry an extra pad with me but a few days ago, I gave it to someone else at the bus stop and forgot to restock it. You know, our society is the worst in providing menstrual hygiene facilities to women. These facilities for women on periods during the pandemic have evolved into a big question mark. We lack clean toilets, sanitary-napkin vending machines, disposal mechanisms, etc. in public places,” Divya explained. Her words broke in pain.

“Yes,you are right. Now take rest and don’t worry, I’ll get you your sanitary napkins. Most of the shops are closed due to the lockdown but I will see. Go and change this kit, I’ll be right back,” Naveen said as he stood up to leave.

“That’s so kind of you Naveen,” Divya responded. She felt very grateful.

Naveen was back after almost an hour and by this time Divya grew very tired and couldn’t even stand by herself. After wearing the pad, she felt a bit relieved. Naveen brought her some hot water and Divya felt relaxed after drinking it.

“Were the nearby shops open?” Divya asked.

“No, I drove for about half an hour to find a medical store and even they were running out of sanitary napkins,” Naveen replied.

“If this is our condition, then I can’t even imagine the condition of women living in village areas in the midst of this pandemic,” Divya sighed.

 “I asked the shop owner if they would get enough menstrual hygiene products to keep in stock but they were not too sure about the availability of products. Lockdown has put a pause on everything.”

“Sanitary pads and other menstrual hygiene products should also be listed under essential supplies during this pandemic. You know people are actually struggling to meet such needs, given the present condition. Authorities should realise that periods won’t stop for pandemics,” Divya emphatically said.

“And to my greatest surprise, I found an article being circulated on social media stating that menstruation increases one’s vulnerability to the corona virus. It is said that menstruation should be treated as a symptom. I was startled when I read it. Even though many of us are educated, we still believe these fake pieces of information. Our society has a long way to go with menstrual education.”

“You are right Naveen. It’s also high time that authorities take action to help health workers get access to menstrual health supplies in order to respond to the pandemic better.  About 70 percent of the health workforce are females. I really wanted to take a leave, go home and rest. But whenever I think about the workload, I’m forced to reconsider my decision.”

“Our team has filed a case in the court regarding the implementation of menstrual needs of female health workers. I hope we will be provided with a positive reply soon. This is not a problem that should go unnoticed in our society, especially at the time of this pandemic,” said Naveen.

“Being here, working for the safety of the people actually diverts my attention from this matter but intimate needs do matter! Let’s hope for the best, let’s look forward to that time when we will be able to control both the pandemic and existing menstrual taboos and traditions. Both have evolved as serious threats to the growth of society,” said Divya, seeming hopeful.

“That’s going to happen soon for sure. People are slowly realising the need for menstrual health, irrespective of gender, and that’s great progress! Hey, get back to work only when you feel relaxed and good. I will take care of the rest.” said Naveen.

Assisting Divya in such a condition had actually helped Naveen learn about so many facts regarding menstruation and in shattering some of the menstrual myths he held in mind. Most of all, Divya got a period support buddy!

Now, bleeding in a PPE kit is no more of a problem for Divya as she has a helping hand. She has been working day and night to save society from the threat of the pandemic always realising that ‘periods won’t stop, even for a pandemic.’

Author: Namitha N

Namitha is a 2nd year student from Palakkad,Kerala. She’s currently pursuing her undergraduate studies in Botany. She’s interested in reading and writing stories,articles, and essays. You can reach out to her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nami_padma/

Edited by: Divya Rosaline