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Posts Tagged ‘women’

For pocket, planet and a happy period: Nirmala talks about the menstrual cup

In Field Notes on 5 April 2017 at 10:41 am

One form of untouchability that we must work to eradicate is menstrual untouchability.  Unique to women, this oppression is based on the idea that a woman’s body is defective and dirty, and can pollute people and spaces if not kept in check.  A recent incident in a school in Uttar Pradesh highlights the need to fight the notion that menstruation is a cause for shame or punishment.  The principal of Kasturba Gandhi Residential School in Digri village made 70 girls strip and be searched for menstrual blood.  Following complaints by students and parents, the principal was fired.  Parents and teachers of  girls should help them to manage periods comfortably and to value the vitality in their bodies, including their menstrual blood, which makes it possible for a woman to nourish new life.

It is good that the community in Muzzafarnagar took decisive action against this outrage; yet menstrual untouchability persists in stark and subtle ways, not only in far flung villages but also among the urban educated.   In the march to consign menstrual taboo to the dustbin of history, one important step is to make periods more comfortable.

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Saves water, saves money, is comfortable: The Menstrual Cup

In What on 22 March 2017 at 8:00 pm

A couple of years ago, my friend Nirmala, who lives in a village in Srikakulam district decided to try the menstrual cup.  Recently I got a chance to chat with her about it.  She was quite happy with it – one of her first comments was that it really saved water.  They get their water from a pump – fortunately the pump is in their own front yard, but still, every bucket saved helps.  All the more so for women who collect water from a distance, especially in times of drought.

Today being World Water Day, here is a short excerpt from our conversation about the menstrual cup.  Stay tuned for the longer clip.

Maternity Leave: Another reason to say Jai Bhim!

In Call to Action on 15 August 2015 at 8:00 am


Observing India’s 69th Independence Day, the Association for India’s Development published a website featuring a tribute to Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, who fought against caste oppression and is known as the architect of India’s constitution.   Article 42 of India’s Consitution provides for maternity leave, as follows:

Article 42 of the Constitution of India 1949

Provision for just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief the State shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.

And in fact Ambedkar spoke publicly about this nearly 20 years before at the Bombay Legislative Assembly.   Read the rest of this entry »

Liberté, Égalité, Non à l’intouchabilité!

In Field Notes on 14 July 2015 at 8:00 am

10 years ago today, I first used the cup. It helped me transform my personal fight against menstrual untouchability to a public one.


Allons enfants!

What do you see in this picture?  Just a family enjoying a day out.  All day, I might add.  There was a time when I would have preferred to plan such an outing on a more convenient date – one when I was not menstruating. Read the rest of this entry »

Seven Fallacies about Menstruation and Culture

In Call to Action on 3 April 2014 at 11:15 am

Several people have forwarded to me an article, written by an educator, connecting “ancient wisdom” to the practice of menstrual taboo, and pitying the misguided women who expect modern ideas of gender and feminism to empower them.  After cataloguing popular justifications for menstrual untouchability and suggesting that they come from a time when women enjoyed respect, indeed worship, in contrast to the present context of crimes against women, the author concludes that menstrual taboo is a matter of “personal choice.”

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.  Would those who condone menstrual untouchability extend their reasoning to untouchability that is not limited to women?  Is it also a personal choice for us to connect to the “ancient wisdom” through the practice of untouchability and caste segregation?  With more than enough relatives who would be all too happy to think so, I take this as a wake-up call Read the rest of this entry »

Menstruation is the New Black

In Call to Action on 31 March 2014 at 8:05 pm

First, the bright side.  People are talking about menstruation.   Nearly 10 years ago when I submitted “Greeting Aunt Flo” to a daily Indian newspaper, the editor replied:

A fascinating story!  But I doubt if our conservative paper would use
it…. Too bad, though, because many women would find it really interesting!

In 2008 during a session on Gender issues at the AID conference we reached back 30 years and read aloud from Gloria Steinem’s what-if scenario “If Men Could Menstruate.”  She wrote that in 1978!  Oddly enough it begins, “Living in India …”  Could we ever imagine to find something discussing menstruation so boldly, written in India today?

In 2010 when we started manufacturing and marketing cloth menstrual pads in the villages of Srikakulam District some of the village level workers balked at the idea Read the rest of this entry »

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