Menstrual blood is impure. Women on periods should not touch a pickle jar, stay away from babies and definitely avoid stepping into temples. These are just some of the myths that Sharmada Shastry, a Bengaluru-based menstrual health instructor, has been trying to bust over the last year through menstrual hygiene management sessions and workshops in Hindi, English and Kannada. “The lack of awareness about menstruation is not only limited to rural areas but the metros too. Women in cities may have a little more information but it may not be entirely right,” says the 25-year-old, who holds a Masters degree in English with a specialisation in Gender and Sexuality.

A cloth pad mandala created by Eco Femme
A cloth pad mandala created by Eco Femme

A popular misconception among urban women is that using cloth pads is unhygienic. “Due to the profusion of disposable products in urban areas and their projection being more ‘clean and hygienic’, women don’t know much about sustainable, re-usable period products like cloth pads and menstrual cups. It is a convenient misconception that cloth or cloth pads are unhygienic. It’s the way in which they are used that’s unhygienic. If one uses a clean variety and dries them in the sun (instead of a bathroom), then there is no problem. In fact, disposable pads contain chemicals and are said to cause rashes and irritation,” says the official blogger for Menstrupedia (an online menstruation guide), who is in town to conduct a workshop titled, Thinking Out Of The Pad tomorrow at Bandra’s Tangerine Arts Studio, on the occasion of World Environment Day.

Sharmada Shastry
Sharmada Shastry

Period primer
The brainchild of Rachana Iyer and Rohan Sabharwal, founders of city-based social enterprise, Crayon Impact, the workshop aims to help women and men, learn about menstruation and the need to use eco-friendly period products, besides questioning the taboos surrounding the subject. It will also feature an activity session on DIY cloth pads along with a display of re-usable products from SheCup and Eco Femme. “We want to open up the dialogue on menstruation to everybody along with sharing resources on eco-friendly ways for girls and women to manage their periods. We also wanted to include men in the discussion because it creates a certain understanding from the ‘other’. Besides, alienating men will only serve to strengthen the stigma,” informs Iyer, adding that while registrations for the current workshop are closed (“we received an overwhelming response”), the team is open to requests for organising it again in the city. “We can organise it at a school, university, office, in a community or even as a webinar,” she adds.

Rohan Sabharwal and Rachana Iyer of Crayon Impact
Rohan Sabharwal and Rachana Iyer of Crayon Impact

For a DIY cloth pad
“All you need is soft cotton cloth, any absorbent material, press buttons and basic sewing material,” Shastry lists the items, adding, “They are re-usable, and can be customised to your needs.”

To organise a workshop, email info@getyourcrayon.org