International day for rural women hadn’t had such meaning in my life as it is today as I am surrounded by “empowered” rural women here in Barefoot college,Tilonia. Women who are supposed to be only involved in household chores, do what they are asked to do, keep quiet in a distress situation and accept their troubled backgrounds as their destiny have found a new home here where their voices are heard, where they are known for skills and willingness to learn more than anything else, where engineering jobs are not meant only for men and women outnumber men in solar department and most importantly where women speak freely about their body, menstrual and reproductive health.
In spite of being raised in a semi-urban environment , menstruation was something which was hardly discussed openly and is still considered a taboo in many parts of the country. Period for me was almost synonymous to a black polythene where the shopkeeper would put a newspaper wrapped pad pack.However I was surprised at the ease at which these rural women, specially the health care workers and trained daimas discuss about menstrual hygiene and reproductive health. These initiatives have brought a big shift in the attitude of both men and women of these areas regarding women health. Here you can find men and women discussing and taking collective decision on production of sanitary pads as well as holding meetings on menstrual hygiene management. We have recently organised a 3 day workshop on menstrual hygiene management with Eco femme, and as expected women came forward to facilitate educational sessions and start dialog about menstruation among adolescent girls and women. I guess this is what empowerment means in the true sense where they are made to realize that it is absolute normal and essential to talk about these issues, provide a conducive environment where they can do so and in doing so they are encouraging many more women to speak up and break the shame associated with these issues.
Below are some pictures from the 3 day workshop which have managed to change my mind on the whole issue of menstruation
Kamala ji , one of the trained traditional birth attendants (Daima as they are commonly known) explained female reproductive system and menstrual cycle in the most simple language possible (This is no doubt my favorite picture of the lot)
Health workers came forward and facilitated the entire session on menstrual hygiene management
Adolescence girls actively participated in a 3 hour long session where they enjoyed mapping and understanding their menstrual cycle and understanding
Our rural women having a funny moment with menstrual cups
The barefoot Medical team who are champions for menstrual hygiene management 🙂