It all started when I first stumbled upon the Menstrupedia Facebook Page. I loved the way they’d approached a topic so so taboo in India. Along with a really well made comic book, they had an animated film that illustrated in great detail all the things you need to know before reaching puberty through a lovely story about three young girls. That very moment I knew I wanted to work with them! I signed up as a volunteer and used their material (i.e the video and comic book) at a girl’s home in Haryana where my Mom worked. The material was really well received by the girls as well as the staff who often find it difficult to speak on periods with young girls.
After that session, when I came home to Chennai, I knew that I wanted to continue doing this and since the video was in Hindi (a language unfamiliar to most young girls in Tamil Nadu), I reached out to Aditi, the founder of Menstrupedia to see if we could get the material in Tamil. They were working on it but it was unlikely to be ready any time soon due to their other commitments. At around the same time, Schools of Equality (another great organization I like to think I am associated with) was working in partnership with Eco Femme (an alternative, eco-friendly sanitary product- made from cloth) to conduct a workshop at a Govt School. Eco Femme has an amazing Pad for Pad program that educates young girls about puberty and also distributes Starter Kits for girls who wish to try it out. I sat in on that session conducted by Harishini (pictures from her session below) completely in Tamil. It was such a fun and informative and most important, interactive class. Here are some photos from the class.
I was really inspired with the way Harishini taught the class, almost like an older sister and not a teacher which is what I think made the girls come out and ask questions and share their stories.
I had approached a school in Chennai, Ramana Vidyalaya to maybe do a similar session with the girls there. Somehow the timeline didn’t work and the Menstrupedia video wasn’t ready in either English or Tamil. So I searched the internet for more such videos. To my rescue came Mythri Speaks. While I found the animation of this video slightly lacking in comparison to the Menstrupedia video, it was still quite a comprehensive video about menstruation and hygiene in my opinion (I had some issues about the part where they talk about marriage and pregnancy but I think for young girls, it was OK).
On the day of my planned session, I took almost one hour per class (starting from class 5 to class 8) and after a brief interaction, we got into the Mythri video. At the end of each of the 3 sections, I would stop to make sure that they’d understood everything by asking them questions or by making them draw out things on the blackboard. To my surprise most girls were very enthusiastic and curious and they asked a LOT of questions! I’m still compiling a list of the questions that we couldn’t answer either because we ran out of time or because some were quite medically specific.
The school also insisted that since I had all of them together I also take out some time to talk about good touch/bad touch as well as the some of the dangers of online-interactions with strangers.
With the girls in Class 9 to 12, I was able to go into the topic a little deeper as most of them already knew a lot about periods but just had questions that needed answering.
The feedback was so satisfying from the girls as well as from the teachers who probably felt a little uncomfortable talking about these topics themselves.
Author: Gayatri Nair
Gayatri is a Contemporary Traveling ‘Candid’ Wedding Photographer who works out of Chennai.1