Teaching 2.5 Lakh Rural Girls About Menstrual Hygiene Through One Animated Film

At a village in Chamrajanagar district, during a prescreening of women for menstrual disorders.
At a village in Chamrajanagar district, during a prescreening of women for menstrual disorders.

Let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about the colour red—of pain and blood. The pain the patriarchy wishes to hide and the blood that makes its way out of every woman we know once a month. But let’s begin with the quintessential questions. Why aren’t we speaking about this? Why is it that there are million of girls turning red with embarrassment, instead, when they experience their period and why does your nearby general store wrap the packet of sanitary napkins in a paper bag instead of a normal transparent bag? What are we hiding from our girls?

Worse still, we’re hiding definitive information about their own bodies from them in the name of tradition. Our culture is made up of chain reactions, where one taboo leads to the birth of another. Due to which, today, we do not accept any dialogue on sex, sexuality and health because we are ashamed to talk about our bodies. Earlier, we provided you with the finest list of organisations and people who are doing their bit on removing such menstrual taboos from our communal spheres. But one initiative we happened to miss that has educated about 2.5 lakh adolescent girls about menstrual health in rural south India—all through one animated film!

“For years, I could never talk about my period. How even the thought made me cringe with embarrassment! But I realise now that these thoughts which we think are neatly tucked away, occupy so much mind space and creep in every now and then in ways unknown to us. What is perfectly normal becomes a big deal and we quietly acquire a low self-esteem and learn to live with it. And sadly, we learn to pretend that it is all OK,” writes Sinu Joseph on a blog post titled ‘Girls, let’s talk about it!’ on Mythri Speaks.

A session being conducted.

Joseph is not only a regular blogger, but is also the woman behind the creation of Mythri, an animation film on menstrual health. “Before making Mythri, my colleague Vyjayanthi and I had done sessions on Menstruation for about 5000 adolescent girls across government schools in Karnataka. Each of these sessions were done orally and had great results,” explains Joseph. But after being exhausted as each session would take at least 2 hours, they realised their limitations and decided to reach out to a larger number of girls. They created Mythri, which covers all the necessary information in about 23 minutes, so that as facilitators, they could focus on enabling the girls to overcome their inhibitions and talk about menstruation and problems around it.

At a village in Chamrajanagar district, during a prescreening of women for menstrual disorders.

The film not only breaks common myths and taboos about menstruation, but also derives from the interactions Joseph has had with the 5000 girls living in rural Karnataka. Keeping their doubts and worries in mind, the film is designed in a manner to answer all the common questions that most adolescent girls tend to have as they have been sheltered from their own bodies. Joseph adds, “The film was an almost exact replica of our sessions in schools. It is based entirely on the questions asked by children, mothers and teachers. Its grounding in reality is why it is very relevant and is received so well. There is nothing artificial or fancy in the video. We did not add anything that was outside of our direct experience.”

The film’s grounding in reality is why it remains so relevant and was received so well. It was accepted beyond Karnataka and dubbed in 7 different languages — Hindi, English, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Odiya, Malayalam, and is widely used by NGOs and volunteer groups to spread awareness on Menstruation. Moreover, within the realm of menstruation itself, they have started working on various aspects of Menstrual Hygiene, beyond the typical. Joseph explains, “We have travelled across India to study and explain the origin of cultural practices on menstruation, which reflects on our blogs. We have undertaken a project to pre-screen women across 37 villages in Karnataka, to identify and refer cases of menstrual disorders. We have decoded menstruation through the teaching of Ayurveda to go beyond the function of childbirth, and to gain a comprehensive understanding of this subject, for which we keep podcasts.”

Training Health Workers in Assam using the Mythri film.

In addition to this, they have expanded their welfare to other issues catering to women. They are also working towards the prevention of violence against women, through their project, Break the Silence. This is a platform for women who have experienced violence to share their stories first-hand, on camera. We also have video interviews of experts such as an advocate and expert on CSA, and a Psychiatrist who speaks about mental disorders. With initiatives like Mythri, opening doors of important social change in rural India, we hope that this change flourishes within every corners of our country—nurturing adolescent girls in all essential ways.

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