Today on July 16th, 2020, we celebrated the launch of “Periods, Period. Stories of Perseverance, Education, and Resilience,” a special publication from the 2019-20 cohort of AIF Clinton Fellows that offers a fresh and compelling perspective around the issue of menstruation and women’s health. The event featured a variety of engaging perspectives, from current Fellows, to young students at Yuwa schools in India, to Fellowship Alumni.
Four AIF Clinton Fellows — Srisruthi Ramesh, Jane Hammaker, Pallavi Desphande, and Sahana Afreen — were joined by Fellowship Alumna and event moderator Janice D’souza, for an engaging discussion about the topic of menstruation. The panel kicked off with stories from three of Jane’s students at Yuwa — Sunita Melinga, Chanda Sahu, and Hema Kumari — about their first experiences with menstruation, the talk emphasized the importance of ending the taboo of periods by making it more normal to talk about them openly. Expanding on the challenge of silence, Pallavi reflected on the ownership of period-related narratives and discusses the goal of creating normalized, inclusive, and period-positive spaces.
“Whenever my elder sisters used to talk about periods. They were very low in voice and very soft, so that others cannot hear that and like it was not really open so they don’t to you talk here and there, but they used to talk in a friend circle. And they were not letting me in, in that group because according to them, I was very young… But then when [Jane and I] were having open conversation, and like everything was fine, and then it, it was fine, then I got to know about [periods]. Then power of information.” -Chanda Sahu
The contributors stressed that periods are not confined to a specific time or space, and thus it is necessary to think about the relationship between periods and a variety of arenas. From the importance of quality educational infrastructure for young students experiencing their periods, to the intersection between menstruation and disability, to the impact of menstrual products on the environment and to whom the burden of sustainability falls upon, to how poverty and economic hardship can make periods a liability, the panel brought many important aspects to the discussion.
“Some people burn [pads] and some people throw it in water bodies… There are different ways that they dispose of pads, but in talking about all these things about reusable, environment-friendly pads and making our periods more green, I would like to like emphasize that we need to shift the discussion from urban or city areas to the communities who live at the last mile.” -Pallavi Desphande
To conclude, the Fellows responded to questions from the audience such as: “What should be the role of men in this?” “How do you prevent having a savior complex when coming into a community as an outsider?” and “How can we tackle menstrual hygiene management in light of COVID-19?”
Claim your own copy here!