“Look at contraceptive pills, we are really not looking into the ill effects of these pills because women use them, same goes for menstruation products. Because women use it, it is not something that main stream media cares to discuss.” – Sofia Ashraf
Menstrual Hygiene Day is observed on May 28, annually. It is observed and not celebrated because there continues to be a certain lack of awareness about menstrual hygiene and so this day is observed with the intention of bringing about awareness, break taboos regarding menstruation, as well as educating women and young girls about good menstrual hygiene practices. Several interesting things happened in 2017 for Menstrual Hygiene Day. But one that caught our attention was Sofia Ashraf’s video on menstrual hygiene.
“Awareness about what goes inside or outside your virgina”- SofiAshraf, Sista from the South
After experimenting with several different menstrual products and experiencing each one individually Ashraf felt the need to educate a certain section of women who have access to menstrual products about the pros and cons of different products.
Ashraf explains, “I started off with pads and then moved onto tampons for functional reasons. When I moved on to tampons I started getting infection and so I approached a gynecologist and that’s when the gynecologist told me about the ill effects of tampons. Tampons have bleach and chemicals in them and they are not meant for India tropical climate so this led me to do a lot of research on menstrual products”
Ashraf undertook research for about a year, talking to people and getting to know more about menstrual products. Her research led her to find out a lot of information which she was unaware of.
Through the course of her research, she found out that sanitary pads are made of 90% plastic, moreover these pads take 600 to 800 years to decompose. Sanitary workers are compelled to take up these blood soaked pads with their bare hands which again lead to a lot of diseases. The amount of chemical used in tampons is again harmful to the body which can lead to vaginal infection.
“A lot of people are not talking about it because in this country talking about menstruation itself is such a taboo, talking about these other facets of menstruation is just completely under the table”
Ashraf works with a channel called Blush where she has started a show called “Sista from the South” which deals with a number of women related issues. She has previously worked on issues like body image and menstruation. The content of this channel, Ashraf claims, is content for women by women using humour and music to target issues that aren’t generally spoken about.
“Mainstream media is dominated by male writers, male directors to a point where a woman’s perspective is often ignored. So the whole point of Sista from the South is just to bring in a woman’s perspective into social media.” – Sofia Ashraf
Period Paatu: A video about choices
According to Ashraf, her latest video on the different menstrual products is a result of her research. While there are various issues regarding menstruation, Sofia aims to address one particular issue in this video. Her video talks about the pros and cons of specifically 3 menstrual products – pads, tampons and menstrual cups. The other menstrual products used are ignored intentionally as Ashraf says that her intention was not to address all the problems related to menstruation. She would like to deal with each problem individually. Her intention behind making a video in English and uploading it on YouTube is clear when she says that she only aims to address 2% of the Indian population who have access to an English education as well as YouTube. These are the people who can afford to buy products such as pads, tampons and menstrual cups. Her video tries to explain to women that while these products are easily available and affordable by them, they also need to know the side effects of these products to make an informed choice about the type of product one is using.
There is a need for women to be well informed about the products that they are use during menstruation. Making informed decisions about the product one is using is a necessary step. However, there is also a need for manufactures to produce more biodegradable products and use a little less chemical while making these products. These are important issues that need to be looked at and discussed. Since these problems concern women, there is not much talk about it. Media also tends to ignore such issues because social media tends to be male centric. There is a certain taboo when it comes to speaking about menstruation and other women related issues.
Ashraf however claims to target only 2% of the India population through her YouTube video which she calls the privileged class. This class has access to menstrual products and it is necessary for them to understand the pros and cons of each menstrual product.
India however consists of a large number of women from different socio-economic backgrounds and each of these women face different problems regarding menstruation which has to be dealt with individually. Most women also suffer due to the stigma attached to menstruation as well as the inability to purchase these menstrual products. This definitely calls for more voice. It would be definitely useful to think about different ways in which all the other issues related to menstrual hygiene may be discussed on all days and not just on Menstrual Hygiene Day.
About the writer:
Marian Dias is a sociology graduate who hopes to start teaching the subject someday soon. Apart from loving outdoor games like basket ball and cricket, she also loves to travel and visit new places.