All about the period: Soon, a toll-free helpline for girls

All about the period: Soon, a toll-free helpline for girls

Schoolgirls, especially those from rural India can now dial a toll-free helpline to get their queries on menstruation answered thanks to an uncoming project that aims to raise awareness on the subject.

The helpline is part of an extensive project by Azadi, a US-based startup working in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh to raise awareness about the overlooked but urgent issue related to a woman's reproductive rights.

"We will be launching a toll-free 'Menstrual Helpline' and school awareness program so that young adolescents can get their queries answered," Dhirendra Pratap Singh, Cofounder and CEO at Azadi said.

Singh was a participant at a collaborative event 'Bejhijhak' organised here today to celebrate the first global Menstrual Hygiene Day and instigate collective action on menstruation.

"Menstrual hygiene is dear to all women. This is the first time in a woman's life when she comes face to face with the first reproductive right of hers," said Neelam Singh, a gynecologist and a participant at the seminar.

Singh pointed out that taboos on the issue leads to pernicious stigmas on menstruating girls and women.

"These include restrictions on entering the kitchen, touching food, touching boys and other people, going to the temple, and playing outside," Singh said.

In India, stakeholders say, menstruation management has become a crisis of huge proportions owning to the prevailing "culture of silence" around it.

"The culture of silence and ignorance plagues 335 million menstruating girls and women in India of which 113 are adolescents," according to a factsheet presented at the event.

Badminton player Ashwini Ponnappa, who was a keynote speaker at the event spoke about how taboos around menstruation can disempower and marginalise women and girls.

"I joined the Menstrual Hygiene Day initiative because I want women and girls to feel more comfortable and confident about the whole process so that they can reach their full potential. I think Bejhijhak is a great initiative that, I believe, will help clear up misconceptions," Ponnappa said.

Sh cheered a group of young girls who presented a street play focusing on the taboo around menstrual cycle.

A 'Gallery Walk' showcasing educational tools, innovative menstrual management products and business models, as well as research and statistics from the field was also put up at the event

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