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RAJASI ON WHY INDIA NEEDS TO GET TALKING ABOUT MENSTRUATION RIGHT AWAY!

RAJASI ON WHY INDIA NEEDS TO GET TALKING ABOUT MENSTRUATION RIGHT AWAY!

menstruation

On one hand India’s this super power progressive nation, on the other it grapples with old-school and illiberal belief systems that hinder favourable growth, particularly for the womenfolk!
Rajasi, the founder of Bleed Red Go Green, talks to ENUFF about the importance of having conversations about menstruation, more importantly about sustainable menstrual practices and how we as a society can collectively bring about a positive change.

We’ve evolved in so many ways but there’s still a lot of taboo in our society related to menstruation. Why do you think that something so natural is so difficult for Indians to talk about openly?
In India it’s still very taboo because we don’t discuss menstruation openly as it should be. Now, it’s far better than what it was when I started in 2013. We as a society need to evolve together and we all need to make better individual choices. I feel, a menstruator doesn’t have the autonomy to control the natural and biological functions of the body and the fundamental idea is of one having their basic human rights. I think that’s something that we still haven’t come to terms with as a society. The conversation around it has started but what we lack is the basic understanding of one’s basic rights, especially for women.

What urged you to take up this initiative of creating awareness around sustainable menstruation? Tell us a little bit about your journey.
My journey started in 2013. I was living in a rural area of Chattisgarh. I was supposed to work with a school for one academic year and when I moved there it was the monsoon and it’d rain incessantly for two-three days, because of which the waste that we were creating; be it plastic waste, sanitary waste or whatever waste we had to burn it and it wouldn’t burn easily because of humidity. So I was looking for a solution to this.
I was placed in a girls’ hostel school and there I saw that there were still so many taboos around menstruation. I could see that villagr girls would hesitate to ask for help and they didn’t have easy access to products, access to healthcare. I felt for them deeply. That’s when I decided, I must start sparking a conversation around the topic menstruation and make people aware of the fact  that they have a choice and rights. I first made a personal and conscious switch to reusable products. For the school girls this was all very new. It was only a start and I made cloth pads myself and the girls were very excited so we taught them to make cloth pads as well.

BLEED RED GO GREEN

Can you please elaborate on the initiative Bleed Red Go Green and what it aims to do? What’s the main goal of the initiative?What is Bleed Red Go Green? Bleed Red Go Green started as a hashtag we were invited at TEDx event in Chattisgarh, We mean I will say as in me and my husband so he has a company in places. At one of the TEDx events in Chattisgarh we used Bleed Red Go Green as a hashtag and it all started from there. Bleed Red Go Green has always been a collective and not a registered organisation or anything, because it has formed organically and people volunteer. This collective is about people who are interested in working for creating awareness about menstrual health and not only working with just tribal and rural communities but moreover also urban communities where awareness is lacking and equally needed. With this initiative we aim to work together. We are already training individuals on how to create and build their own communities.  Building the grass-root movement and bringing people together to work on similar initiatives remains one of the collective’s primary goal.

What kind of challenges do you face while advocating for change and creating awareness around sustainable menstruation?
First thing menstruation is already a taboo topic, and is quite intimidating for some people to talk about casually. Also, the  decision-makers are really, mostly men, be it, families, or the government. We have very less representation of women as menstruators. The other challenge I faced was that most of the time I feel I’m interacting to non-menstruators and they don’t feel the need to talk about menstruation – a lot of menstruators also because it’s a taboo topic as we have a lot of misconceptions about our own body and the sanitary aspect of it and all. Advertisements mostly dictate disposable products and say using cloth is dirty and I promote reusable products like cloth pads and menstrual cups so that’s why a lot of people can’t accept it. Another thing is menstrual cups are not invasive, it’s something that has to be worn in the vaginal canal so a lot of people think it’ll cause you to lose your virginity and your vagina will get loose. Many mothers think it’s not good for their daughters and it may lead to many issues but that’s not true and this misconception we need to clear when we are doing educational sessions with different people. We are working on those challenges through social media and I mean I am not talking just for myself here, not just as bleed red woman but we have so many collectives.

You conduct workshops and awareness programs for rural communities in Maharashtra and Chattisgarh. What is the response from the people there? Are they open to learning and educating themselves more about correct menstrual hygiene?
We have various misconceptions about our own bodies like how they are and we are scared of our own bodies basically or we have really flawed ideas of our own bodies so basically as Bleed Red women we are giving out scientific backing and information about our bodies and let the audience choose what they want to do for themselves. We advocate taking  responsibility of our own bodies and until and unless that happens I think we’ll keep at it. We wish to urge women to respect and care for their bodies.

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What are the future plans for Bleed Red Go Green? Any plans of touching on other parts of India?
Rural communities I have seen are more receptive than urban communities when it comes to menstruation. I mean it’s very surprising to me a lot of people but it’s true that they are more open to new ideas and they want to interact. Urban communities think that they are educated so they know everything. Most of the times we receive a very good response from rural communities than urban communities because they are in touch with nature, they are in touch with what is happening around the world. Our garbage is being picked up by someone and it’s treated by someone but for rural communities and even for the urban poor they see the garbage everyday, they deal with this everyday and we are living in a very sophisticated and protective enviornment and these people don’t live like that. The waste is either in your backyard or in your frontyard when it comes to rural communities even in the urban slums. They are practically dealing with waste everyday, not just waste but they are dealing with taboos and everything that’s why they really want change to happen and I’ve seen in lot of mothers especially in these communities that they want to change the narrative for their daughters, daughter-in-laws and it’s so interesting and so positive to hear from them, so empowering to hear from them and quite encouraging for educators like us who want to create awareness and want people to take care of their own bodies.

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