This is a winning entry of our writing contest on “Periods in Pandemic” by Mirnal Nautiyal

Menstrual health is a serious, yet overlooked issue, mostly among vulnerable women. The pandemic has not only destructed and toppled the national economy, but it has also affected the women of our country adversely.

There will be millions of teenage girls who will experience their first menstrual cycle in this traumatic environment with fear all around them. The problem these young girls will face is not just of the natural cycle or the biological effects of periods on their body – the problem is the lack of knowledge about their own body and how to comfort and confront it. It is not just about normalizing the norm but also about helping those women out there too.

Due to this pandemic, it is even more difficult for poor and marginalized women to afford menstrual hygiene products or just sanitary napkins. The lack of income due to no work which ultimately leads to lower access to menstrual hygiene products are just going to worsen their weeks of menstrual pain.    

Coming from a middle class family, I was quite scared of not being able to buy my sanitary napkins during the lockdown. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to buy them or that they’d go out of stock in the market too. Don’t judge me as I am just a 16-year-old girl, facing a pandemic and such a troubled time for the first time in my life. I have not faced any adversity before; it is not that I have luxuries but neither have I faced such a difficult time where I  would need to worry about basic necessities.

This lockdown has made me restless and worried about my once-in-a-month week of bleeding. My stress about it even made my heart wrench for the ladies out there who can’t even afford menstrual hygiene products during normal days, and this pandemic would have been the worst nightmare for them!

Since I am from a middle class family, I use those XL pads, but during light flow days or at the end of my periods, I use those government provided sanitary napkins just to save money, and so my large pads end up going to waste. I realized that after some time, the store keepers at the Jan Aushadhi Kendras stopped giving me those light ones saying it was out of stock, even when I could see them in the glass casing. I thought it was because they didn’t have enough for other poor women so they refused to give it to me (maybe because I used to buy those expensive ones too, along with those 4 rupees packs).

But one day, I saw a labor-lady asking for those packs and they simply refused, so I got really angry and bought a pack for the woman (even got a scolding at home because I said I basically lost mine). Being a teenager, I couldn’t do much, but when I reached home, I asked my mother about it and she said, “Yeh log khudke use ke liye rakh lete hain, isliye nahi dete, government ki hai na. Sarkaari cheezon main ghotala hota hi rehta hai.” (“These staff people keep the pads for themselves. Since it is a government service, scams are very usual occurrences”) And I was like WHAT!? Why would you hide a 4-rupee packet of sanitary napkins, like why? It’s so cheap that if I could, I would have given a few packets away for free without any hesitation. And here you are hiding it for personal use, especially when you have a whole drawer full of it! It’s cheaper than 2 Xerox copies!

This particular incident has made me believe that women can’t be really healthy during this pandemic and I mean physically, mentally and emotionally. Women go through enough traumas in their life, and adding to it, we have this pandemic which makes them miserable enough.

I know bleeding is God’s special gift, which only a few beings experience but it is not as easy or pleasant one as these advertisements show on T.V. Women don’t jump around and especially go out running in theirs pads or tampons like these commercials display. It’s hard for some women dealing with PCOS and endometriosis and other problems, as for them periods are nightmares.

StayFree recently started a move for women having their first periods during their pandemic with a saying: “IT’S ONLY PERIODS,”. There are still middle class houses ( leave the poor ones aside, I know they are the worst hit) who get grossed out by the fact that a woman is bleeding.

The problem will get solved when everyone realizes HOW “ITS ONLY PERIODS” and everyone faces it.

Author: Mirnal Nautiyal

Mirnal Nautiyal is currently in 11th standard. She aspires to study and understand human psychology for higher education. She wishes to work for a suicide prevention center and other NGOs as she grows up. Until then she loves to help anyone and tries to keep Mother Earth healthy in every way.

Edited by: Divya Rosaline