I clearly remember seeing this movie Padman with my friends some time ago and feeling completely aweful for the females in the story and going back home with a heavy heart.
(Here in the community area that I stay in) I got my periods today and my land lady’s husband is in some 20-day Hindu prayer ritual which requires the whole house to be “clean”, because of which they denied my stay in the house and asked me to go to their relative’s house which was 6km away. I walked all the way till there and reached another village just in the hope that I will be treated like any other member in the house and will be given shelter for a couple of days.
I am waiting outside this two-storied building with a shop playing some tacky songs with a group of women sitting next to me.
As I walk closer to this building, I saw my landlady welcoming me with a wide smile which really pumped up my mood. But to my shock, she pulled a garage’s shutter up and showed me one tiny grain storage area filled with sacks, maggots and insects and said that I have to stay here the next few days (until I stop bleeding) and use the area behind the adjacent dirt pile as a washroom. I was shaken to bits, my landlady also happens to be my closest friend in this otherwise strange village.
All the women next to me clearly understood that I wasn’t very happy with this treatment and they started sharing their stories to make me feel better.
*Neena, a young mother said that she had to stay in abandoned cattle shed every month all through her teens and once on a stormy night, she couldn’t help but cry to sleep out of fear.
*Aditi, a young college student said that she gets her period every 10 days and will stay in the hen rearing area outside her house almost 12 days every month. And two-three more women shared their routine during periods, staying outside homes getting water and food served by the men in the houses from a distance-in their words ‘food will be thrown in our plates like it’s done to dogs’.
All these stories and experiences had only increased my agony and I couldn’t help but burst out into tears. I had my doubts,
- Why is a process as natural as breathing forming a basis for such levels of ill-treatment?
- Why are these women considering this to be normal?
- Isn’t this discrimination?
- Isn’t this bad culture to follow and teach the younger generations?
Once *Neena finished narrating how she’s treated in a certain way during her period days and how it makes her feel (bad, obvious by now), she went on to share about another incident of a woman violating the ‘customs’ of staying out, not attending social gatherings and serving food to others and causing inconvenience around her. More than anyone else it’s the women who are becoming enemies to other women, it is the underlying hate that is causing them to believe that whatever is happening with them is normal and coming together as a community to identify these as myths and wrong practices and break them gradually seemed like an act of lunatics to them. I think I was in part crying for the complete lack of rationale and understanding, which the women around me were living in.
Empowerment it is believed has a five stage progress, starting from awareness to reaching role modeling, through means, access and action. The women i live with, i know now, at least in matters of menstrual health and being able to tell the difference between a biological process, care and superstition – are at the lowest rung.
I also find myself in utter frustration and pit bottom of things, trying to now wrap my head around how I can do something to improve the situation from here on. It is one thing to want to change and completely another when you sit down to decide on your action items. I will hopefully make more headway, once I calm down and keep you posted my progress.
* Names changed to protect the identity