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MHM Day 2018 at Red Light Area – Mumbai

This MHM 2018, we continued with the efforts on creating menstrual awareness and education.  Safe N’ Happy Periods again reached out to women sex workers, this time the workshop was held in the Grant Road Centre of OASIS (a NGO that focusses on rehabilitation of men and women in the red light area).

Amongst all the pains, challenges and discomforts in which the women live there, we brought a smile to their faces. Like the previous workshop held in Kamathipura on the women’s day, this workshop was held in a small group of about 30 women. Being a delicate target group, having only a few participants creates a safer and more trustworthy environment for the women, which gave Sarika the opportunity to communicate directly to all of them. Due to this the participants had the space to ask questions and most importantly felt comfortable talking about menstruation.

Picture by: Lorena Guedes

Keeping in mind their lack of proper education and the trade they are in, they are always vulnerable to many diseases like STD’s, HIV, and Infections etc. Hence basics on menstrual hygiene were discussed in length together with answering their questions. Furthermore, Sarika talked about several instruments that help women during their periods, tampons, sanitation pads, menstruation cups etc. Most of the women seemed to merely have knowledge on the sanitation pads, so talking about tampons and menstruation cups created interest among the participants.

The most crucial aspect of the workshop which Sarika dealt with was the yoga poses for easing menstrual pain. There were volunteers from the participation group willing to help Sarika with demonstrating the yoga. There was a lot of laughter among the participants, which created an interactive atmosphere. The yoga was taken seriously and enjoyed too. Overall the participants seemed interested in what Sarika had to say and were looking forward to share this information with their daughters too.

Finally Safe N’ Happy Periods distributed free sanitation pads and yoga belts to OASIS at the end of the workshop. These are then shared among the women in the red light area to help them deal with menstruation properly. The participants enjoyed the workshop and showed particular interest in the topics discussed.

We would like to thank OASIS for giving us this opportunity and looking forward to many such workshops for their women. We urge people to contribute to these women in whichever way they would like to. Although we always try to distribute as much as we can, it is still not enough. A yoga belt does not cost much, and we appreciate everyone willing to donate to our cause.

It is important to be at peace with yourself. It is important to feel confident in your own body. Most of all, it is really important not to be ashamed of something you are biologically programmed to have.

Upon my arrival in India, I learned a lot about its food, its culture, and some of its traditions. But I have to say, I was really surprised to learn how menstruation was perceived. For me and my friends, having our first periods was something to be proud of. Yes, it wasn’t something you publically announced but it was definitely not something to be ashamed of either.

By being a part of SNHP, I got a chance to observe and be in contact with women from various age groups and backgrounds. Seeing their reactions to what Sarika told them about menstruation, was eye-opening. I realized just how much I have taken my knowledge for granted: knowledge about my own biology, about menstrual hygiene and about pain-relief.

SNHP, in a way, helps these women and girls to embrace themselves and get rid of negative emotions surrounding this natural phenomenon via education. An education many don’t receive because most women are too shy to talk about it even with their daughters.

I had a great time working with Sarika and the other volunteers. I am so grateful for everything I’ve learned and experienced. It has been an unforgettable journey and while I’m sad I could only be a part of it for six weeks, I’m looking forward to seeing what SNHP achieves in the future.

Yasemin Daldal from Istanbul, Turkey
Andressa Grechi from Brazil

Being a volunteer on Safe N’ Happy Periods helped me to understand the reality of Indian women. The use of pads and tampons during the menstrual periods, considered common in other countries, it’s still a hot topic in India.

Many women still do not know how to use pads or the correct way to disposal it, they are shy and do not feel comfortable talking about periods. A topic considered so natural for me and spoke so freely in my country can become a nightmare for women in India.

Safe N’ Happy Periods do not just spread awareness, it changes lives. It changes the way women in India see themselves and make them be more confident, independent and proud about their bodies.

Check her video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqeDfJ1wvao

A Chartered Accountant

Assistant Manager – Finance department of Bunge India.

 

I have been volunteering with SNHP and I’m happy to be a part of an initiative that is spreading awareness about an important issue in India. I like doing yoga too and I believe that teaching yoga asanas to relieve period pain is very effective.

Ruchika Khemka
Rebecca from UK

 I was enrolled in a 6 week women empowerment project called ‘Project Mulan’, of which 2 weeks were spent with Safe N’ Happy Periods. However, after the 2 weeks had finished, I made the decision to stay with this non-profit for the full duration of my time in India. I feel that this NGO is making a tangible impact on society – as well as distributing pads people have donated, the workshops themselves are invaluable for raising the confidence of young girls, reducing shame and preventing infection through unsafe hygiene practices and misinformation. The true impact from this non-profit is immeasurable, and there is no counting how many girls still think about Sarika Gupta’s workshop or use the yoga asanas on a monthly basis.

I feel passionate about helping to spread the message about this initiative and contribute to their work, especially having attended a workshop and seen how warmly welcomed and productive they are. As someone who has found themselves on unproductive volunteering programmes in the past, which are designed just to entertain the volunteer, I was able to recognize this project as one that is really worth my time and energy.

As a girl, I was always interested in women empowerment and fighting

for girls’ rights. I wondered why there are a lot of girls who are shy because of their bodies. I also felt sorry for those who can’t do whatever they want to do, study the thing that they are interested in and travel to places they want to visit and the reason of all that is that they are girls!!!

I went to India to work with a non-governmental organization called Safe N’ Happy Periods. This organization works to create awareness about monthly periods, to educate girls about their bodies, about hygiene, about what they can do and why they shouldn’t be ashamed of their bodies. This is important because in India there are a lot of girls who feel ashamed and uncomfortable about their periods although it is such a natural thing. We often say women empowerment is a must, but how can we empower women who have problems with understanding their bodies and their period. I then realized that the work of Safe N’ Happy Periods is a great first step for the sake of real women empowerment.

 

 

Aya from Egypt
Workshop at Kamathipura, for girls and women associated with the NGO Oasis India

“Safe N’ Happy Periods” was invited by Rave Technologies India Pvt. Ltd. (an IT software and services company based in Worli, Mumbai) to conduct a short workshop as part of their Women’s Day initiative for social awareness.

The workshop was held at Kamathipura, for girls and women associated with the NGO Oasis India. Oasis India is an NGO who work for the betterment of underprivileged women and children. At their Kamathipura centre they are involved in providing safe shelter and homes for children in an unsafe environment, engage them in after-school education and activities and help them find appropriate employment. This way they help girl victims of human trafficking and daughters of the sex workers in Kamathipura to achieve a bright future.

The workshop went very well. The girls and women were very interested and listened carefully. They learned about the biological importance of menstruation, the right menstrual hygiene practices, the different sanitary products they could use and the right way to dispose sanitary napkins. Besides this, they learned ways to reduce pain through yoga and the need to discard superstitions and myths surrounding menstruation. Educating these girls and women about the importance of menstruation and menstrual hygiene is all the more important as most have not had access to the right information and resources, until now. This workshop provided them with vital information, while also helping them to feel more secure about their menstrual cycles and bodies, which is an important step to empowerment.

We were very happy to conduct this informative interactive session for these girls and women. This workshop has been an exciting and inspiring event for both the attending girls as well as for us and our international volunteers. We hope to work with Oasis India and Rave Technologies in the future to reach even more girls and women in the same situation.

My first hand experience with Safe N’ Happy Periods took place in the Global Village, an AIESEC event where a lot of students from different countries all over the world come together to share their culture and experiences.  This year it was organized at the Pillai College of Navi Mumbai, and Dorian (another volunteer from China) and I had the opportunity to set up a stand for SNHP and represent the NGO in front of the students who attended the event. In the previous weeks we had worked in the office, doing researches, updating databases, planning visits to schools and colleges; at the Global Village we had the chance to meet students and talk to them about our experience of volunteering for SNHP, sharing our opinions about menstruation related issues and showing them the activities done so far by the NGO. I was impressed by the interest showed by the majority of the girls I talked with, they were aware of the importance of improving menstrual awareness among young girls and they strongly supported our cause. It’s clear that these girls want to change traditional perspectives about periods, they really want to talk about it shame-less and freely, while there were some guys who felt uncomfortable when I asked them some questions about this topic. Then I realized how much work is still needed to reach a real shame-free menstruation time for every woman in the world. In my opinion SNHP is a significant starting point to achieve this goal, a push to change mentalities and behaviors. It’s up to everyone let women to live happily their periods; I’m glad to have the opportunity to give my contribution to a cause I strongly believe in.

Clementine Udine from Italy
Priya

Final Year Bachelor of Business Administration

DY Patil Institute

You never stop learning. Yes!

Safe N’ Happy Periods gave me this chance to learn many new things. I always wanted to join an initiative which is working to break taboos surrounding Menstruation. Volunteering with SNHP has given me guidance, knowledge, and awareness of the challenges women encounter. I’m glad that I’m part of this initiative and though I have a busy schedule with my studies I always look forward to contributing to this great cause.

To put it in a nutshell, my volunteering experience with Safe N’ Happy Periods was one of the most rewarding and mind-opening experiences of my life. Right from the start, Sarika – the founder and good spirit of Safe N’ Happy – encouraged us to challenge the structures that we found and to come up with new ideas of how to improve the work of the initiative. Apart from administrative work, my tasks included meeting school and university officials to arrange workshops, writing blog entries and reports and assisting Sarika in delivering the workshops.

The most memorable experience was to accompany Sarika to MIJWAN, an NGO run by Bollywood celebrity Shabana Azmi Ji in a small village in Uttar Pradesh. Staying and working in this rural setting was a challenging, but extremely rewarding experience. To see with how much curiosity and gratefulness girls and women followed the workshops, how they practiced the yoga asanas and how they started talking more openly motivated me throughout my entire stay.

The longer I work with Safe N’ Happy, the more I realise how invaluable this initiative is in making women feel more confident about themselves and their bodies. To create awareness and adequate knowledge about menstruation and to ensure that women are no longer disadvantaged in society, there is still a long way to go, but Safe N’ Happy is taking a great step towards these goals and I am proud to be part of this journey.

If you want to contact Isabella about her experience with Safe N’ Happy Periods, please write an e-mail to: isabella.hilber@hotmail.com