‘Pavitra’ movement is on

Menstrual health is a subject that many of us do not talk about. It is still a subject that is exclusive to women and men are not part of the conversion. However, a new project under Art of Living (AoL) called Pavitra is trying to make women, as well as the society, aware of the health and hygiene problems during menstruation.
Samita Chakravarty, a member of the AoL faculty, says menstrual health awareness is not up to the mark in India, especially in the rural pockets where it is “still a hush hush”.
“In Meghalaya too the awareness on menstrual health and hygiene is not very much,” she says.
When we talk about menstrual health, several factors come to fore. They are food habit, hygiene, exercise (yoga), awareness on diseases and breaking myths and taboos, says Chakravarty. Pavitra, a project under the AoL’s social department, covers all these components in its awareness programmes.
“‘Pavitra’ means pure. So menstruation is not something dirty but pure. Pavitra, which was launched last year, is a movement now and is reaching the rural as well as the urban areas. When we reach out to young girls and women, we realise that so much ignorance is there regarding it,” she says.
In Meghalaya, the volunteers are targeting both rural and urban schools and have already reached out to over 800 girls belonging to the age group of nine to 17. The programme is targeting around a thousand stakeholders. Chakravarty says the response everywhere was overwhelming. In fact, Pavitra aims to reach out to all schools and colleges in the whole of Meghalaya.
She insists that every woman should be part of the programme as ignorance about menstruation will lead to infection and other health hazards. “There is no shame about talking. Come out and be a part of Pavitra. This cycle is what makes a woman mother. This is the best thing that can happen to a woman,” she asserts.
The initiative is scientific and explains health and hygiene scientifically. However, unanswered questions still remain. In many parts of the country, menstruating women are barred from entering temples as they are considered unholy or dirty. There is, however, no explanation as to how a natural process like monthly bleeding can be considered ‘dirty’.
But Chakravarty says there are some traditional practices which are logical but were later misconstrued. “Menstruating women were usually not allowed to enter the kitchen because she needed rest and may have cramps and feel low. No hard work was recommended during period. However, over the years it was distorted and became a taboo,” she rues.
Talking about the myths in Meghalaya, Chakravarty, who is a master trainer in this project, says she has never come across any taboo among people in the state but there is a need for awareness on hygiene and means of relief from the pain.
“Pavitra can help to a large extent in educating in a more practical and scientific way,” she asserts.
Under the programme, teenagers and young women are told about the reproductive system, food habits, hygiene during that period of the month, study of the flow and yoga that can help them during cramps.
Pavitra also intends to encourage production and marketing of sanitary napkins at a cheaper rate. It is open to including men stakeholders for a wider awareness platform. “In fact, men can help in the expansion of the programme by encouraging their wives, sisters and daughters to participate. The film, Padman, has changed the whole perspective about menstruation,” says Chakravarty, who has been associated with AoL for the last 10 years.
Citing the examples of Roma Joshi and Chandrani Dey, who were trainees and are now working towards spreading the message of health, Chakravarty says women from all walks of life and from all parts of Meghalaya are invited to join the programme so that the awareness spreads among more people.
“I am proud to be a woman, a mother, a wife and strength for my family and friends. And I want every woman to feel the same. Womanhood should be celebrated, without shame and fear,” says Chakravarty.

~ NM

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