The whispers catch your attention. You turn around to see where the murmurs are coming from. But the sound is gone. Once you leave, they start again – always speaking but barely audible. They hide in the shadows, afraid to come out in the open; afraid to make a statement. “I got my period,” says one. “I haven’t gotten my period in over 2 months,” whispers the second. The third one says, “I’m late. What if I am pregnant?” The fourth clutches her stomach and lets out a whispered moan. Her cramps are virtually killing her. The period pain is real; their conversation is not because no one is there to hear them. Only a few brave ones come out of the shadows, into the busy street, yelling about their period pain. Only the brave ones dare utter the monstrous “M-word”. Until now.
With a global pandemic, an economic crisis, climate change and more, one would assume that society would focus on the “new” concerns, rather than the age-old historic stigma around menstruation. However, menstrual hygiene has come front and centre in discussions on social media and national television.
We think it is because of the widespread availability of information and awareness. Covid-19 has forced us to find new, virtual ways of turning our whispers into voices that are heard. The one platform that is readily available to use is social media. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. People post informative content, their strong opinions and news of the world on all these platforms.
How is this connected to menstruation being (finally) spoken about?
For one, women have started feeling more confident speaking about their menstrual problems. The pandemic has made it more difficult for many women to access sanitary menstrual products. Initiatives like ours at GiveHer5 have been working on providing menstrual hygiene products to women in all parts of India, even more, the pandemic hit. People are collecting pads, bundling them and going from door to door, distributing them to the women who need it.
Going virtual has helped normalize periods. Companies are now opening up to the idea of period leaves. The conversation of giving women the option to work from home during their periods has been all over the news. Organizations realize that all work does not have to happen in the office. People can have the flexibility to work from home, as long as there is no decline in their productivity.
The progress that we have made, in terms of normalizing menstruation, is enormous. We only hope that this continues even after we make it through the pandemic. Normalizing periods and not treating menstruation as an evil demoness, but for the natural process it is, will help propel the movement for gender equality. We must come together and fight for what is just and essential. The responsibility to fight for those who find themselves whispering in the darkness falls on all of us. We are the brave ones who take a stand and help make a difference, which, together with your help, can be monumental.