Women from rural communities of Indrapolly in West Bengal with the pads distributed to them

From Fear to Freedom: How Open Conversations are Changing Attitudes Towards Menstruation

Pinkishe Foundation


The Hidden Shame: A Girl's Desperate Bid to Conceal Her Period

In the rural village of Indrapolly, Alipore, a secret torment plagues the lives of young girls. It's not a monster lurking in the shadows, but something far more insidious – the crushing stigma of menstruation. For 14-year-old Divya, the onset of her first period was a harbinger of not celebration, but crippling fear and shame.

In a culture where periods are a taboo subject, Divya found herself overwhelmed and alone. The thought of others discovering her condition filled her with such dread that she resorted to a shocking act of desperation. Seeking to conceal the telltale stain, she submerged herself in the nearby pond, allowing the water to wash away the evidence of her body's natural process. The fear of ridicule and ostracization was so profound that she risked her safety and dignity to remain hidden.

The villagers who discovered Divya in the pond tried to coax her out, but her terror ran too deep. It wasn't until her mother arrived, promising discretion and understanding, that she finally emerged. This heartbreaking scene underscores the dire lack of education and the pervasive shame surrounding menstrual health in rural Kolkata.

Divya's story is a powerful testament to the urgent need for change. No girl should feel so ashamed and alone in her body's natural cycle. It was a call to action – to shatter the stigma, to educate, and to ensure that no girl suffers the way Divya did. Her story must be told, and changes must be made, so that future generations of girls can live free from the crushing weight of menstrual shame.

Seeds of Change: A Volunteer's Quest to Transform a Village

In the face of such overwhelming stigma, a ray of hope emerged. Purnima (name changed), a volunteer with Pinkishe, had been conducting pad drives across rural Kolkata. Her mission was to not only provide essential resources but to spark vital conversations about menstrual health and hygiene (MHH). When she arrived in Alipore, and started having conversation with the women on their health and hygiene condition, she was met with a shocking revelation – the story of Divya, the 14-year-old who had hidden in a pond to conceal her period.

The dire need in this community was painfully clear. Purnima knew she had to act. With the support of her team, she set out to organize a MHHM workshop in Indrapolly, complete with pad distribution. But this wouldn't be just any workshop – it would be a catalyst for change, with girls like Divya at its center.

The day of the workshop arrived, and Purnima welcomed not only the adolescent girls but also their mothers. She believed that to truly shift the paradigm, education must encompass entire families. With sensitivity and compassion, Khushi delved into open discussions about menstruation, demystifying the process and emphasizing the importance of hygiene.

She looked at Divya, who sat with eyes downcast, still burdened by the shame of her past. Purnima posed a powerful question to the group: "Why must we hide in shame over a natural part of life?" She took Divya's hand, explaining the science behind menstruation in an approachable way. "There's nothing to be ashamed of, Divya. Do you understand? Promise me you won't fear your periods again."

In that moment, the seeds of change were planted. Purnima's workshop was the start of a new era for the girls of Indrapolly. It would take time, but with continued education and support, they could cast off the shackles of shame and embrace their bodies with confidence. Divya's story, once one of heartbreaking fear, was becoming a testament to the power of knowledge and compassion.

The impact: From Fear to Empowerment

Purnima didn't stop at just one visit to Indrapolly. She returned, eager to check in on the girls she had met during her initial session about menstrual health. As she arrived, she was greeted by the shy but smiling face of Divya. The young girl's demeanour had transformed since their last meeting. With newfound confidence, Divya shared that she had been using the cloth pads Purnima had provided, and the experience had been good. The fear and anxiety that once accompanied her periods were gone, replaced by a sense of control and happiness.

The impact of Purnima's work extended beyond just Divya. As she sat chatting with Divya's mother and other women from the community, they openly expressed their wishes that they had received similar education when they were younger. They were grateful that their daughters were now empowered with knowledge about their own bodies. These simple, heartfelt conversations were a testament to the positive change that was taking hold.

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