If you want to deliberately agitate Urmila Chanam, a 36-year-old health care professional, you just need to act shy when you have your period and you’re around her.
Chanam, a Bangalore-based Manipuri, is the founder of a three-year-old campaign called ‘Breaking the Silence’ which aims to destroy the myths and taboos about menstruation.
“In India, a woman’s body is riffed with restrictions, myths and people are scared of the body,” Chanam told telesurtv.net. “There are so many lies associated with menstruation, so it is very important for me to tell women about their bodies and let them know that they need not feel shy and inhibited about them.”
Myths, taboos and superstitions about menstruation are not restricted only to villages in remote areas of the country. They are alive and kicking in India’s biggest cities too.
For instance, women are not allowed to enter sacred places when they are on their menstruation cycle. Some households do not even allow them to enter the kitchen space. In villages, some communities bar women from working in the fields because of their bleeding.
This has not gone unnoticed. In India, sanitary towel brands (which have much to gain, for instance, a bigger market) have sprung into action, trying to break menstruation taboos.
A few years ago, Whisper ran its #TouchThePickle campaign that symbolised breaking taboos around periods. Later, sanitary towel brand Sofy ran a campaign called #GirlUninterrupted which showed women getting on with their daily lives even during their period.
Here is Sofy’s video:
Most people don’t realise that many common problems can be sorted when a woman is comfortable with her period. This is why Chanam is so involved with her awareness campaign, which soon became so popular that NGOs invited her to villages in 10 states to hold training workshops.
The objective of the ‘Breaking the Silence’ campaign changes every year. This year it is on ‘Collectivising Women’, with the aim of interacting with women on the community and neighbourhood level, and sharing experiences. Chanam’s objective is to make people aware of menstrual hygiene, the womb, and sexual health. She even uses UN curriculum-based training modules to spread her work.
Feature image credit: worldpulse.com