|By Vinod Mishra and Francesca Nava
RISHIKESH, India – About 5,000 volunteers, pilgrims, devotees and religious students in India broke the silence on Menstrual Hygiene Day to shine an important light on menstruation – a topic often hidden and purposely avoided in the Hindi culture.
In some parts of the country, women’s fertility is considered a taboo and menstruation can be viewed as “evil” to a point where women and girls are considered “impure”.
Women getting together to break the silence on Menstrual Hygiene Management
On the rare occasion to publicly celebrate menstrual hygiene (28 May), participants ventured into an eye-opening discussion under the theme: “Breaking the silence advocacy campaign” to move forward certain community issues during such religious moments. The event was organized in India’s northern city of Rishikesh, located in the Himalayan foothills near the Ganges River, with a well-known Hindu ceremony called Ram Katha.
According to a German non-profit organization, WASH United, one out of two girls have knowledge about menstruation before their first period. For one out of two girls, mothers are the most important source of information about menstruation, followed by friends. Menstrual hygiene management is fundamental when it comes to advancing health, economy, human rights, and education.
Given this significance, Pujya Swamiji, a national religious leader and the co-founder of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, and Sadhvi Bhagawatiji, GIWA Secretary General, both held discussions honouring the month-long ceremony known as Shri Ram Katha. They called on massive participants to pledge for menstruation hygiene management from a stage upon which traditionally, these arguments have never been brought forward.
Rishi Kumars studying religious scriptures in Ashram. They took bracelets and took pledge on MHM for breaking the silence and disseminate the message on MHM in the classroom.
“Never before has the topic of menstruation been discussed at a Ram Katha,” said Pujya Swamiji, “you might find it surprising why this has been discussed here. But one needs to understand if you want to make a country stronger and successful, it needs strong and successful mothers […] Therefore, to keep a mother successful, healthy, and clean, menstrual health is extremely important”.
Pujya Swamiji and Sadhvi Bhagawatiji also showcased the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council’s Menstrual Hygiene Wheel, offering a special MHM bracelet as a symbol of their commitment to work together towards this vital cause.
Pujya Swamiji (Center) and Sadhvi Bhagawatiji (Left) with Honorable Ambassador Mr Kenneth Juster discussing future partnership actions with GIWA and WSSCC
The evening closed with further discussions with United States Ambassador to India Honourable Kenneth Juster.
On the eve of Menstrual Hygiene Day, Sadhvi Bhagawatiji had set the tone at the Ganga Aarti ceremony, a live programme attended by thousands of devotees and tourists as well as watched by thousands of people across India and the world.
“If our mothers did not have menstruations, we would not be here; […] so menstruation is the symbol, the reminder of that divine creative power in the women, it is not a time to be down, it’s a time to be up! It is a time to remember. I have menstruation because I have the creative mother goddess in me,” said Sadhvi Bhagawatiji.