Sharing the picture below on the internet makes me uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. Not because I am uncomfortable with the topic. As a communication officer at UNICEF India, I have been creating content around the issue for years now.
But somehow, I am uncomfortable talking about it to men and women on a public platform. And to men who don’t want to hear about it. Some of them are okay talking about it, but in hushed tones and whispers, amongst other men and behind closed doors.
No wonder that we men had no idea for a long time that something like this exists. It is a shame that I had no idea about menstruation, or how it had been affecting the lives of the women around me, until the day I got married. I had a mother and sister at home.
I remember asking my dad once, in the presence of my mom, about it.
I had read about the word in my class.
Always eager to help me, this time, however, my parents instinctively responded.
“It is a spelling mistake. It is mensuration, a branch of geometry,”.
I didn’t push it.
I knew when they were lying.
Over time, I associated it with blood, cotton and something very dirty. Very shameful. Something which is taboo and not to be talked about publicly. That uneasiness and stigma are the reason menstruation and periods are never talked about. We’re taught that it is unmanly to talk about it in public.
So, let me start by being comfortable about talking about it in public. Honestly, this is very difficult for me. A large majority of friends on my social networks and my relatives will get uncomfortable and maybe joke about it.
But let me start. A period is good. It is natural. It is beautiful.
It gave me my beautiful children, Zeeniya and Zayaan.
It is the reason for my existence, and why I am alive. And the reason why everyone is alive.
And if it is a beautiful natural process, why should it be considered dirty? Why should the discussions around it be abhorred? Why are we so silent about this? Why should menstruating girls and women be restricted from activities such as cooking, sleeping on beds, going outside the house and participating in religious practices?
The culture of not speaking up impacts the health of adolescent girls and women. Unhygienic practices linked to menstruation, such as prolonged usage of unhygienic menstrual cloth or sanitary pads, leads to a high risk of reproductive and urinary tract infections.
Stigma and fear perpetuate a culture of silence and dissuades adolescent girls and women from seeking medical help while they encounter problems linked to menstruation.
This Menstrual Hygiene Day, let us talk about periods. I’m speaking primarily to all of you men out there.
Let’s make a start today. Let us be comfortable speaking about periods.
Let’s talk about it to our spouse, sons and daughters. Let’s talk about it with friends and extended family in public.
Because periods are good. PERIOD.
Idhries Ahmad is a Digital Communication Officer at UNICEF India. He is a father to two beautiful children. A girl and a boy.