Meet the men taking on the task of challenging taboos around menstruation
One of the primary challenges that women still continue to face is the taboo around menstruation. The gap in access to and awareness of menstrual hygiene products like sanitary napkins and tampons is still huge. According to reports, menstruation in India still seen as something to be ashamed of and not to be discussed openly. And only a dismal seven percent of our women use sanitary pads.
This blatant disregard for women’s health and needs is deeply rooted in misogyny and a lack of care for their well being. The conditioning has led to women feeling uncomfortable discussing their periods with each other. In many parts of India, families still believe that women are impure during their periods, and shun them from the kitchen and main areas of the house. Coupled with this social taboo is lack of awareness and affordable options for sanitary products.
But all hope is not lost as some sensitive men are tryng to change status quo and coming forward to help women in this journey.
On Menstrual Hygiene Day, we celebrate these men who are changing the narrative around menstruation in India by speaking about it and providing women with affordable hygiene products.
The Padman of India, Arunachalam Muruganantham’s story has become widely popular especially after the release of the movie, Period. End of Sentence, which was based on his life and journey.
Arunachalam, who hails from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, is the inventor of a low-cost, sanitary pad-making machine. He started Jayashree Industries with small machines that would make low-cost sanitary pads after seeing the challenges women in his life faced.
Arunachalam started a menstrual hygiene revolution in India, shedding light on the challenges women faced when it came to menstruation and hygiene, and opened the doors for other men to work in this sector. He was also featured in TIME magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the world in 2014.
Shashwat Diesh and Aqib Mohammed
Delhi-based Shashwat Diesh and Aqib Mohammed launched Azah to provide better quality sanitary pads for women in October 2018. During a conversation with his sister, Shashwat was shocked to know about the physical discomfort and rashes women suffered using low quality sanitary pads. This conversation set him on a journey to give women better hygiene products along with his friend, Aqib.
Azha provides FDA-approved, eco-friendly and organic cotton pads free of harmful synthetics such as chlorine, dioxins, and artificial fragrances. It notched up 1,000 customers in 30 days of being launched.
Deep Bajaj and Mohit Bajaj
Deep Bajaj is the Founder and Mohit Bajaj the Co-founder of Gurgaon-based Sirona, a brand known for its range of sanitary products, which include menstrual cups, tampons, herbal relief pain patches, breast pads, Pee Buddy (female urination device to stand and pee), and much more.
The duo is now focusing on creating sustainable female hygiene products and are championing menstrual cups, which are not just easy to use but are a sustainable and affordable option.
Chitransh Saxena started a PadBank in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, to provide sanitary pads to girls and women who can’t afford them. The aim was to help girls and women, especially those who live in slums and end up using cloth and husk for period management.
Chitransh’s aim is to ensure that women can access clean, fresh sanitary pads during their periods without any hesitation or shame.
Mangesh Jha from Ranchi, Jharkhand, gave up his well-paying job to travel across Jharkhand distributing sanitary pads to women. He often ventured into remote areas on foot to break the taboo around menstruation.
Many startups across India are working on sustainable menstrual products. Some are working to spread awareness and yet other NGOs are working with the government to change things at the ground level by breaking taboos surrounding menstruation. This issue needs everyone’s attention, whether in rural or urban India. Only if men work as allies can we overcome the challenges and social conditioning menstruation pose.