• Brindha Nagarajan: Breaking Menstrual Taboos

    Most of us dwelling in cities, oftentimes live in a bubble. Our world is small, and we like it that way. We hardly know how the ‘real’ India actually lives their lives. A lot of us want to go to villages and contribute to the education to underprivileged kids. We want to help out in some way. But how many of us do?

    SheThePeople.TV met Brindha Nagarajan and had an inspiring conversation with her, Read on to know more:

    THE INSPIRING STORY OF BRINDHA

    Brindha currently lives in Bangalore, working for KPMG, but she took time out to do some socially responsible work. After college, she worked for three years and saved up some money so she could help out the underprivileged.  She didn’t know where to start until one of her friends told her about this fellowship program by SBI that sponsors about 100 people to go to remote villages and bring awareness about certain topics.

    She spent one month in Rajasthan before she was sent to a very remote village called Pithoragarh, which is somewhere close to the Nepal-China border. Getting there was a task too, with the closest metro city being about a 7-hour car ride away.

    A YEAR IN PITHORAGARH

    Here, she spent time in different villages for about a year, talking to the locals about women empowerment and spread awareness about menstrual hygiene. She had heard about certain archaic menstrual practices, but to her surprise, she realised this problem was more deeply seeded than it seemed. Women in these villages were supposed to sleep in cow sheds when they were on their period. They also had to drink cow urine, and sprinkle it around themselves as a means to ‘purify’ themselves. There were a lot of practices that seemed completely illogical to her.

    A CURSE OF THE GODS?

    Brindha conducted a small survey of the villages and found out that 80 per cent of the people thought that having your period was the curse of God. They had little or no idea about the biological process of menstruation.

    Whenever there was a natural occurrence such as lack of rain or leopard attacks, they’d often blame these on the women. They would say that these took place because the women did not follow the menstrual ‘rules’ properly.

    Brinda educating children

    Brindha with the school children of remote villages

    CONDUCTING SESSIONS ABOUT MENSTRUAL HYGIENE

    Brindha took it upon herself to educate and spread awareness in the villages. She would go to remote schools and speak with adolescents about their period. Her sessions would usually last for 3 hours. It would be difficult to get these girls to talk about menstruation, as it is a taboo, but Brindha would ease them into it by conducting activities and putting things in perspective. She wanted them to have a safe space where they could voice out their concerns, and that is what she achieved. Brinda says, “I wanted to give them the freedom to talk to someone, for them to know that they have a friend who they can talk to. I still get messages and calls from these girls even today, which makes me think that what I did was impactful”.

    Brindha would also conduct sessions for older women. In these sessions, she would talk about anaemia and other diseases that could affect them, and what signs and symptoms to look out for.

    A LIVELIHOOD FOR THE WOMEN IN THE VILLAGE

    Spreading awareness is one thing, but putting it into practice is the next step that Brindha took. These villagers may seem enthusiastic to change during the sessions, but they usually go back to using old rags which are not very hygienic, when they have their period. As a solution, Brindha set up a small livelihood for the women in these remote villages. These women were taught how to stitch reusable and sustainable cloth pads.

    Brinda's story

    Brindha with Kamala Di and her son, one of the women she trained to make reusable cloth pads

    Brinda's story

    Women learning to make reusable cloth pads

     

    Avani, an NGO, helped Brindha with the distribution and sales of these cloth pads to other nearby villages. The production and sales of these pads is still ongoing in these villages.

    The production of these cloth pads provided three very important lessons to the women in these villages. They were easy to use, hygienic and provided livelihood to some of the women.

    STEPPING STONE TO BIGGER THINGS

    Brindha took a bold step and actually went out of her way to help those in need. She told us that she would absolutely do it again. She hopes that through her story, others will be encouraged to do the same. Brindha also wants to start her own socially responsible initiatives in the future, and this experience has been a stepping stone for that. She wants more young, educated people to go out there and experience something like this, as it is definitely a life changing experience not only for the person doing it but for the people they are helping out as well.

    Pic credits: Brindha Nagarajan, reach out to her at brindha.nagarajan@gmail.com

    Also read: Menstrual taboos in India: Why shake or break them?