QUEEN’S ROAD: India has long struggled to look at menstruation as a non-issue. Even today, a good number of women and girls don’t have access to proper menstrual hygiene tools, including sanitary napkins. They depend on alternatives like rags which cause infections.
Inner Wheel Club (IWC) Bangalore West knows this is not a problem limited to what in our minds makes up the poor India — the villages. This year, under its annual SMILE (S-Sanitation, M-Membership, I-Image building, L-Literacy, E-Evaluation) project, the club has launched an initiative called Shuchi Shikshana Andolana to spread menstrual hygiene awareness among girls studying in government schools (classes 5 to 10) and colleges in the city.
The movement is supported by Rotary Bangalore West and managed by MITU (Multiple Initiatives Towards Upliftment) Foundation, which has been working in the field of menstrual hygiene and management in Bengaluru and rural Karnataka for six years.
Under Shuchi Shikshana Andolana, IWC Bangalore West encourages girls to overcome the stigma often associated with menstruation. During the one-hour-long sessions, there are discussions on disposal of used pads, drying cloth pads under sunlight to avoid infections, PMS and coping with mood swings.
If time permits, they also discuss adolescent crushes, child sexual abuse, rape, early marriage, unwanted pregnancy and the importance of washing hands before eating food.
So far, Kumara Park High School has been covered under the initiative, and sessions are being conducted at Government Arts College and Government Girls PU College. They will be organised in MES Kishora Kendra School and Maharani Lakshmi Ammanni College for Women next.
Sundaravalli, associate professor of economics at Government Arts College, told City Express, “Though our college is located in the heart of the city, a majority of our students belong to low socio-economic strata. So it was important to create awareness and educate them properly on menstruation, as it is considered taboo by so many, especially in their villages. The session was also about early pregnancy. UG and PG students had to learn about the ill effects of early pregnancy. It was quite a successful talk.”
IWC Bangalore West is also sourcing funds to ensure a regular supply of sanitary pads to girls and to set up incinerators at a few schools for disposing of used pads. They are also distributing old newspapers to discourage girls from using plastic bags to dispose of sanitary napkins.
Kala Charlu, founder of MITU Foundation and president, IWC Bangalore West, hopes all Rotary branches in the city will have identified at least 10 schools in their jurisdiction to hold such health and hygiene sessions by next June, when her term ends. “All the Rotary and IWC branches should join hands in implementing this project and making it a success,” she said.
ROOTS OF THE MOVEMENT
The Inner Wheel movement was launched in 1924 by Margarette Golding, wife of a Manchester Rotarian. The first IWC in India was formed in Ahmedabad in 1955. With the continued support of Rotary Club of Bangalore West, IWC Bangalore West’s Shuchi Shikshana Andolana hopes to bring about a big change in the mindset of girls and their families.