Amani Dabriwala was not one of those to sit back and ignore the issues faced by young girls. The moment she realised how much of a serious affair menstruation is, she decided to go all out and fight the stigma.
“I realised menstruation is a huge issue and there is barely any awareness in the country about it,” she says, adding that metropolitan cities aren’t any good either.
“Forget villages, even city girls aren’t completely aware of sanitary basics like hygiene, and disposal of pads,” she laments.
On an average, a woman spends six to seven years of her life menstruating. But the subject is still approached with caution (according to the rand.org). Girls and women still find it difficult to hold a conversation on menstruation leaving room for myths and notions to grow and perpetuate. Only 12 per cent of Indian women can actually afford co mmercially produced sanitary napkins (according to rand.org).
Amani (extreme right) educates girls on basic sanitary hygiene
Taking a yearlong break after her high school to work on her future plans, the teenager decided to dedicate herself to educating girls about menstruation and hygiene. Having gone through the same process, she relates to these young girls, and all she wants to do is make a difference.
Things started to fall in place for her, when two government schools she approached were very welcoming. Right from the principals to students, everyone was receptive to her cause. She spoke not only to the students but also to the teachers so that they can talk to students periodically. She says, “I also include a Hindi animation clip of a teacher explaining to girls what menstruation is — that is the basic medium. The clip also talks about the emotional aspect attached to it,” she lists, adding that girls get scared when they get their period. “I explain to them that it is a biological process and that it is completely fine to be irritated, upset, tired or angry.”
The 19-year-old found out how mental health is also something they are not exposed to. Recalling an incident of a 13-year-old girl, she says, “She used to get exceptionally tired during her periods and her parents would pressurise her to do physical activities. I told her it is normal to be tired and that she can tell her parents the reason.”
Moving from city schools, Amani now wants to focus on villages and install sanitary napkin machines there. Apart from menstrual issues, she also wants to talk to students about busting myths about mental health. “I want to talk about the basic mental health issues which one faces in day-to-day life. Because that is also something people don’t pay attention to,” she concludes.