This Earth Day, stand up for period of change

It gives me hope for the human race that the most widely celebrated photograph in the world is that not of a woman (given the unfortunate fact that the woman’s body has become a commodity, which is used to sell everything from cigarettes to cars) but the body of the earth. Almost half-a-century ago, in 1968, astronauts of the Apollo 8 mission took a picture of the Earth from space. And this one photograph of a miraculous blue sphere floating in the immensity of space changed humanity’s perspective: Instead of taking the Earth for granted, as the ground that we tread on and dump our waste, we came to view it as a fragile living planet that we, along with millions of other species, are fortunate to call our home. This iconic picture called Earthrise, is credited as giving rise to the environmental movement and birth to April 22 as Earth Day.

It is in recognition of the fact, especially given the fast deteriorating condition of India’s environment, that we can no longer take the earth for granted, we decided to launch our campaign #PeriodofChange on Earth Day. For, we believe that every aspect of the human life, and not just the monthly menstrual cycle of the woman, should be informed by sustainable lifestyle choices.

But such is the state of our country that millions of women do not even have a choice in how they manage their menstrual cycle. Dominated by patriarchal norms and socio-cultural taboos, sometimes coupled with a lack of access to clean water and soap and adequate privacy, over 7 million women in India use any available material, including unhygienic material like sand, ash, dry leaves, husk, gunny bags, dirty rags and newspaper for managing their period. Another 200 million women in India have a poor understanding of menstrual hygiene, often considering it as being “dirty” or “polluting” and passing that same bias to their daughters. Such norms and conditions have adversely impacted women’s health. Reproductive tract infections (RTIs) are 70% more common amongst women who use unhygienic materials during menstruation, and RTIs often lead to more serious ailments including cervical cancer and maternal morbidity. India has one of the highest rates of cervical cancer in the world, for which unhygienic menstrual practices are partly to be blamed.*

Safe and sustainable menstrual hygiene management is therefore a pressing need. And in these first ten days of the campaign, we explore issues around taking care of the basic needs of women in terms of ensuring access to safe, hygienic, menstrual protection for all as well as taking care of body of the earth, so that life may sustain.

*Facts cited in this paragraph are taken from the report: “Improving Menstrual Management in India,” Dasra 2014.

–Bindu Mohanty

This post is part of Period Of Change, a 5-week campaign organized by The Kachra Project along with Earth&us that aims to mobilize people (both men and women) around menstrual waste as a starting point to lobby for change in current practices in MH waste management.

Join us for our inaugural panel on Earth Day, 7 pm IST as we bring experts to talk on sustainability & menstruation.

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