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The five co-founders of the “Men 4 Menstruation (M4M)” campaign – Satwik Mishra, Rakesh Singh, Abhinav Kishore, Viswajeet Kumar and Biswambharnath Naik – say that menstruation is so shrouded in mystery that many men refuse to talk about it, contributing to discrimination against women and girls.
“Menstruation is not just a woman’s thing but a man’s responsibility, too. That is our motto, and we aim to bust myths associated with menstruation and create awareness amongst the urban and rural masses,” explains Mr Satwik Mishra.
The goal of this campaign is to raise awareness on menstruation and advance equality and empower menstruators across the state of Jharkhand and beyond. The organizers also intend to provide women and girls with access to menstrual hygiene tools and education.
According to Mr Biswambharnath Naik, one of the co-founders, the M4M campaign will comprise of seven major phases with the first one being a signature campaign, engaging all district administration officials and policymakers to take a pledge to support menstruating women.
“The second and third phase would be for creating awareness and setting up MHM Chachi (aunt) libraries across government schools in the state. Mr Vinod Mishra, the National Coordinator of WSSCC India, has supported our campaign in our design phase, and WSSCC will assist us in the future plans,” said Mr Naik.
Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) Chachi consists of boxes containing promotional materials and comics with information related to menstruation. The boxes also contain biodegradable menstrual products. These boxes are designed to tackle the lack of open discussion around menstruation and provide information and materials to young girls in schools.
The campaigners have also rolled out video initiatives, in which influential male members, such as policemen and politicians of the society, will talk about menstruation to break the silence and bring a positive change around menstruation.
“Menstruation is hidden from boys, and that makes them ignorant about issues that matter. The day you start involving them in this discussion, things will change for good, and our society would become more empathetic,” says Ms Aditi Gupta, founder of Menstrupedia (a friendly guide to periods).
“I think it is a great move because involving men in creating awareness around menstruation is important. When I got my first period, I was told not to discuss it with male members of my family and that was wrong,” she says.
According to a report by Dasra, 23 million adolescent girls drop out of school every year when they get their first period. Alarmingly, 71 per cent of young girls remain unaware of menstruation until the first occurrence of menstruation.
“These figures highlight the lack of awareness in our country. Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) is important, and this campaign aims to create a period friendly environment. With continuous efforts of M4M, along with collaboration and guidance from partners such as WSSCC, we have taken a significant step towards eradicating period poverty,” said Mr Abhinav Kishore, one of the campaign organizers.
In later phases, the campaign will focus on making period friendly toilets, following UNICEF standards, and awareness will be spread to promote eco-friendly and sustainable menstrual products. Furthermore, they will tackle how to reduce the number of girls who drop out of schools.
“Access to a toilet is a crucial element when we talk about the availability of MHM facilities. We are hence upgrading the existing toilet into a period-friendly by adding required accessories and amenities,” said Mr Rakesh Singh.
Some of the co-founders had previously launched a campaign named ‘Garima Abhiyan’ (campaign of dignity) in collaboration with WSSCC. The campaign tackled myths and taboos associated with menstruation in Simdega district of Jharkhand, reaching at least 600,000 people.