“Women bleed every month for about 45 years of their lives. Yet, there is a taboo when it comes to menstruation. Let’s throw caution to the wind. Let’s not murmur about it anymore. Let’s say it loudly and clearly, to be free of the shame.”
This is the basic motto of the annual celebration of periods Maasika Mahotsav, the eight-day long second edition of which begins next week, from May 21. The event has gained prominence across the country with associated NGOs from six states, including Gujarat, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh, participating in the festival now.
Events like an all women’s football tournament ‘Kick the taboo’ and a cultural night in Thane’s Manorma Nagar will culminate into the festival’s finale of May 28, which is also World Menstrual Hygiene Day.
The force behind the festival is an organisation called Muse. It was founded by Amritha Mohan and Nishant Bangera (who is also the president), in 2012.
Among various social campaigns by Muse was ‘A Period Of Sharing’, which was started in 2014. It mostly involved distribution of sanitary napkins in rural areas to spread awareness about menstruation, but it soon came to a halt once the organisers realised the ill effects of sanitary pads on the environment.
“We then moved to sustainable menstruation,” said Amritha Mohan. “We identified communities in Tier 3 localities in and around Mumbai and Thane and explained the science behind periods to them. The main focus was on promoting cups and cloth-based napkins.”
However, opposition from some women in the community to these means of sustainable menstruation presented a different challenge to the volunteers. “We realised that one section of the society was not ready to step out of their comfort zone,” said Amritha.
“That’s why we decided to come up with this festival, because everyone wants to be a part of a celebration. There’s no taboo surrounding it, as opposed to our awareness campaigns.”
So have these efforts brought about any tangible change? “I conducted a session in Thane and women were very rigid with their ideas. But from the same locality, three young, undergrad students made the move from napkins to menstrual cups. This courage has also affected their mothers, who are also moving away from the thought that inserting a cup in the vagina means losing virginity,” Amritha said.
Around 25 volunteers will be involved in the festival this year; a considerable number of them are men, including the co-founder NIshant. “It’s very important for men to participate in such causes. For instance, if my male companion supports me in the larger conversation about periods, it goes a long way in helping me get out of my comfort zone and be more open about it,” said Amritha.
Find out more details about the festival here.
Images: Facebook/Maasika Mahotsava