🚨Alarming period myths🚨 ⚠️Clothpad usage⚠️ 🤒Lack of PMS info🤰
The number of classrooms I’ve visited has gone now in the double digits since we started Aurat Raaj. However, today was the biggest reminder why so many of us, startups, social enterprises, nonprofits and governments, need to work together in the global south to end period poverty.
So here we were Suha, Jaya and I, ready with Raaji, our equipment, in a Karachi urban slum called Goth Limo trying to fit a car into a street that could only be passed through by a small goat. The women had been waiting for us for over 20 minutes (eeeek, the traffic because of the heavy rains the last few days has been tricky). But as soon as we got there, it took us 5 mins to set up and get started and the audience thankfully was full of excitement and laughter.
The room was filled to the absolute top. The girls and women in the room were of all ages. Some who hadn’t started their period and others who could easily be menopausing. But we wanted this discussion with this elder age bracket mostly because they could influence the way their daughters, daughters-in-law and granddaughters manage their period. We also wanted to see how period shame had affected them way back in their day.
Now these were not timid or scared women - many of them had fought their husbands to send their daughters to school and that’s why they had been invited today by the adminstration along with their daughters who were school attendees and sitting in the front row.
“I stopped eating and talking to my husband. I wouldn’t budge until we paid the school fees and got my daughter’s uniform,” said a Baloch woman who did not want to be named. “I wanted a life so drastically different from my own that I sold my own jewellery to put her into school.”
Each time, we start our workshop, we explain our vision and mission through various fun activities and games. This time we explained the importance and power of unrelenting sisterly support through "Trust Falls". Ayesha, a lovely young woman, volunteered to close her eyes, let go of her body control and fell back hoping she would find support from other women. Fortunately, she did!
When we loaded up our chatbot and began our conversation around menstrual hygiene, 90 per cent of the women said they did not shower during their period. All first fives days of them. To convince them, even through Raaji that it is okay to shower during these days was a challenge. They had myths that showering during these days could cause infertility, water to go up through their genitals, and headaches.
While we always had 50-75 percent of girls in every classroom that were still using clothpads, in this audience, geographic location and age bracket, everyone relied only on cloth or kapra. “When I first started my period, I was attending someone’s wedding. For days, I didn’t know where to hang and wash the cloth so that it could not be seen by other people. I had anxiety from hiding in different places hoping it would not get caught,” said another participant.
With their mothers sitting in the audience, the young teenage girls in the front row had a difficult time speaking out their problems or clearing out their confusions. We knew we had to go back and speak to them again about various aspects of puberty and mental health.
This entire event could not have been possible without the support of one of my mentors Sophia Ahmed who made this connection, collaboration and education possible with the founder of Aghaaz School Fahad Ali who is a big advocate of girl’s education.
If you’d like to sponsor one of our RAAJI campaigns, through products, donations or your talent, get in touch with us (firstname.lastname@example.org) We are happy to work with you and take you on a journey with #RAAJI!
P.S: the pictures aren't as beautifully done as before because some of the women did not want their faces to be seen on social media.