As part of its larger project on Prenatal Education, Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Indian Culture (SAFIC) recently started an outreach programme at some local schools and colleges to create cultural sensitivity and general awareness on the topic of menstrual health and hygiene.
The first two workshops of this project were conducted on February 26 and 28, 2019, at PSBB Millennium School in Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu, and Amrita Vidyalayam, Pondicherry, respectively. Dr. Kalyani, the resource person for SAFIC with several years of experience and expertise in these workshops, conducted them in Tamil, the local language for better understanding and wider reach.
At PSBB Millennium School, about 80 girl students from Grades 8 to 11 attended the workshop, while the number of participants was about 200 at Amrita Vidyalayam from Grades 5 to 9.
Dr. Kalyani explained and emphasized for the young girls the important role women play in the conscious creation of humanity. She helped the girls recognize why the onset of menstruation (menarche) is considered an important rite of passage for a young girl and still continues to be celebrated in a grand manner in many parts of South India, especially in Tamil Nadu.
The reason for discussing such topics is to ensure that the young girls do not feel any sense of shame about menstruation and instead experience self-respect in their identity as young girls so that they grow into confident young women, with a healthy self-esteem and awareness of their physiological and emotional bodies.
Several other topics, related to adolescence and menstruation, were also discussed, such as:
- Physical and social problems faced by girls during periods and ways to address such problems
- Menstrual hygiene and management
- Nutrition and importance of a balanced diet
- Effects of physical activities and general hygiene during periods
- Connection between emotions and the menstrual cycle
- Harmful effects of plastic-based sanitary napkins on body, and their hazardous impact on the environment
- How to make, use and maintain reusable eco-friendly pads and its maintenance
- Significance of girls recognizing and developing their inner strength – physical, emotional and mental; and fighting against the tendency of falling into a sense of victim-hood in the case of some unfortunate situation such as sexual harassment
The feedback received from both the schools was highly positive. The SAFIC team is now more convinced of the need for facilitating such interactions with young students around this topic in a way that is culturally sensitive.
We will also be expanding on the content of the workshops by incorporating a few important aspects related to strengthening a deeper cultural awareness surrounding this topic of menstrual health practices.
Here is a feedback from a student of the PSBB Millennium School:
“The session was not only highly interactive and informative but was filled with lavish doses of humorous moments, thoroughly enjoyed by the students. This was a wonderful enriching opportunity that threw light on various issues regarding menstruation.”
Some comments from girls who attended the workshop at Amrita Vidyalayam are as follows:
“The session was really joyful and interesting. Dr Kalyani Ma’am made us understand about the power of being a woman. This was an awareness programme for women to survive in the society. She also taught us about hygiene and sanitation of women. She told us to face all the problems boldly. After the session we feel very proud to be girls. She inspired us a lot.”
“She came to our level and made us understand the situation around us. She taught us the importance of being women. Now we are so proud to be women. Thank you Ma’am for your informative speech.”