How Easy Is It To Stay Free
By Anupriya Jain
Well yes, the pun is intended. Probably the only things we can complain about during ‘that’ time of the month are physical pain or mood swings, but have you ever wondered there could be way more to it? Ever wondered those little white napkins we use without even giving a second thought to might actually be a luxury for some?
Surprising, isn’t it? Well I had my eyes (and ears) wide open when someone in a Youtube video talked about the lack of clothing in our country. I was sure it was like any other speech about the rampant poverty in our country. And then it hit! A family that doesn’t have enough to wear in a day, a family that struggles in tattered sheets during winters -will they ever create a fuss over ‘hygiene’ of all matters if the lady is menstruating? For us, it is significantly customized and differentiated – night wear, travel wear, heavy flow, gel absorbents and what not; for them it is just a piece of cloth.
But someone in the video called it ‘Not just a piece of cloth’.
This someone, Mr. Anshu Gupta, is the founder of an NGO called Goonj. Years back, he and his team learnt about the lack of proper clothing in our country along with the heart-rending issue of lack of resources and hygiene for menstruating women. For these women and their society, it is a taboo, that time of the month when they are ‘impure’. I ask, why won’t you be, when you use sand, ash and even the filthiest of rags to absorb the flow of blood, and that too sometimes for an entire year or two! It’s like using the dirtiest cloth in the house for cleaning! These practices often cause infections and consequent health complications. Mr. Gupta even reported a large number of uterus removal surgeries due to vaginal infection. You know what that means? That means removing an essential organ just because they don’t have a mere piece of cloth to use!
So, Goonj, recognizing the urgent need for sanitation came up with a program for distributing cotton pads to rural women for a mere price of rupee 1. The cotton cloth, donated by people from all over the world goes through a tedious process of measuring, washing, drying, ironing and finally packing. Moreover, Goonj promotes discussion about critical women issues among these people to develop a culture free from the taboos. Needless to say, innumerable people are benefitting from this program, becoming aware and more concerned about their life and security.
I’ll be honest. Till the day I heard about the efforts of Goonj, destitution for me was limited to inadequate meals, fetching water from a distances, no schooling, homelessness and the usual things that our textbooks tell us. I had no idea about the real challenges impoverished women face regarding a need as basic as this. I think all of us need to make efforts to help them, too, STAY FREE!
If you too believe in the noble cause of GOONJ, well then, spread the Goonj! Donate your old cotton towels, bed sheets, curtains etc. or promote hotels and hospitals in your locality to donate their discarded (but usable) cotton fabric to Goonj. You can also tell Goonj about various women forums/meetings you may know of where women can be sensitized about their tabooed yet basic needs.