Unveiling the Menstrual Enigma: From Taboos to Empowerment

Do you remember your first periods/menarche? Did anyone tell you what periods are and why they happen? Or did you have the same fate as many girls in India that you found yourself perplexed and didn’t know, why suddenly there was blood coming out of your private part (Vagina)? Or did you see pads lying in your house and had no idea what it was used for? Or your family felt uncomfortable when any sanitary napkin advertisement came on TV?

If the answer to any question asked above was ‘Yes’, then the need to challenge the culture of shame and silence around menstrual health and hygiene is yours too! The culture of shame and silence, doesn’t just persist in marginalized communities but in every other household as well!

Why menstrual health and hygiene?

On an average, a woman spends 7 years of her life on periods. Yet, we hardly talk about it! One can question, why is talking about it essential? Just for the sake of awareness? No! Talking about menstrual health is essential as even though the onset of menstruation marks a crucial physiological milestone in the lives of adolescent girls, symbolizing their transition into reproductive maturity, yet, it remains a highly stigmatized and taboo subject.

Adolescent girls often embark on their menstruation journey with significant knowledge gaps and misconceptions, primarily due to the adults’ reluctance, to engage in conversations about sexuality, reproduction, and menstruation. One common misconception that we witnessed on field in our ‘Pads For Freedom Campaign’ was that ‘Period blood is impure’ (अशद्ुध रक्त) as most of the girls and mothers believed this. Is period blood impure?

Furthermore, cultural taboos and restrictions surrounding menstruation are passed down from generation to generation, perpetuating the same belief. In the focus-group discussion with mother groups in schools, they shared that they inform their girls about periods by saying, “This will happen every month” (ऐसा हर महीने होगा). When asked, do you know why biologically periods happen? Mothers’ kept quiet, as they themselves weren’t aware as to why periods take place?

The research reiterates, 71% of girls report having no prior knowledge of menstruation before their first period. Mothers, typically sought after for guidance, often view menstruation as “dirty,” reinforcing these taboos. Research shows that only about 23% of girls knew that the uterus was the source of menstrual bleeding, and just over half (55%) considered menstruation normal.


Focus Group Discussion: Mothers’ Group, (Qualitative data collection)

Twenty-three million girls in India drop out of school yearly when they start menstruating (Dasra and USAID). Many of them end up facing acute health problems. The lack of knowledge on menstruation and menstrual hygiene, combined with limited access to sanitary pads, leads to girls dropping out of school when they hit puberty (6th or 7th class). Moreover, inadequate menstrual hygiene can lead to a heightened vulnerability to Reproductive Tract Infections (RTIs), significantly contributing to female morbidity.

This is the grave reality! Women all around the country are struggling, the struggle starts around 10 or 12 years of age. The girls and women from marginalized communities are at the receiving end. The problem is inter-sectional, which includes poverty, gender, class, and caste.

What are we doing to challenge the existing landscape of menstrual health and hygiene?

Regrettably, discussions about menstrual health and hygiene are seldom integrated into the curriculums, leaving many students uninformed and unprepared. Recognizing the importance of addressing this gap, we propose a campaign to empower menstruators with the knowledge and tools to effectively manage their menstrual health and hygiene.

Through ‘Pads For Freedom Campaign’ we aim to create a more inclusive and informed society for all menstruators, fostering a healthier and dignified menstrual experience.

In the ‘Pads for Freedom’ initiative, we conduct menstrual health and hygiene workshops in government schools across Delhi, NCR, Uttar Pradesh, and Bangalore. To amplify our impact, we’ve embraced a three-tiered impact approach:


Workshop Impact:
● Conducting impactful menstrual health and hygiene workshops to bridge knowledge gaps and break taboos among menstruators.
Empowering Rural Women through Pad Distribution:
● Distributing menstrual pads crafted by women from Self-Help Groups, fostering a financial and identity empowerment approach for rural women.
Educational Resource Creation:
● Developing educational resources for girls and others to disseminate essential information about menstrual health and hygiene.


Pads for Freedom Booklet: (Prepared and distributed in Hindi, English and Kannada)

Furthermore, our recent initiatives involve engaging with mother groups and teachers. We aspire to deepen this engagement, enhancing the knowledge base, and dismantling taboos at their root. Our goal is to put an end to the generational passing on of shame and taboos surrounding menstruation.

How can you contribute to changing this narrative?

We earnestly encourage all readers to share it with others, and initiate conversations within their households. If you are inclined to support this campaign, feel free to reach out, connect with us, and actively participate in fostering positive change.

Together, let’s be instrumental in reshaping perceptions and spreading awareness about * menstrual health and hygiene.


We are extremely grateful to EXL for their support towards KHUSHII’s “Pads for Freedom Campaign” which will benefit 25000 children . We also acknowledge the action packed participation of EXL volunteers to support the cause and be a part of this campaign.

About the Author:
Prakriti Pandia, Head of Mental Health Department


Dasra. (2015). Spot On: Improving Menstrual Management in India. Retrieved from

FSG. (2016). Menstrual Health Landscape in India. Retrieved from

Kansal, S., Singh, S., Kumar, A., Kachhawa, G., Singh, T., & Chopra, S. (2020). Menstrual Hygiene Practices and Its Association with Reproductive Tract Infections and Anemia among Adolescent Girls in Rural Uttar Pradesh, India. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care.

NDTV. (2018). 23 Million Women Drop Out of School Every Year When They Start Menstruating in India. Retrieved from =A%202014%20report%20by%20the,up%20with%20some%20startling%20numbers

Sivakami, M., et., al. (2019). Effect of menstruation on girls and their schooling, and facilitators of menstrual hygiene management in schools: Surveys in government schools in three states in India, 2015. Journal of Global Health, 9(1), 010408. doi: 10.7189/jogh.09.010408

Sharma, P., Malhotra, C., Taneja, D. K., & Sivakami, M. (2021). Menstrual Hygiene Management among Adolescent Girls in India: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Indian Journal of Pediatrics.

Singh, A. J., Singh, S., & Upadhyay, A. K. (2019). Knowledge and Practices Regarding Menstrual Hygiene among Adolescent Girls in Rural Varanasi. Indian Journal of Community Health

  • Category : Prakriti Pandia
  • By Team Di
  • January 30, 2024
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