A post-graduate student, Bidisha Saikia has started the #BleedWithDignity campaign to make quality menstrual healthcare accessible to every girl. Pranati Sinha tries to find out more. Read on…
Menstruation is a word that still holds a taboo around it even at this 21st century and it has millions of terms that are used globally to describe it other than the word itself. Code words and euphemisms emerge out as the winners when it comes to describing menstruation because sadly, we are still uncomfortable to discuss it freely in 2019 let alone talk about menstrual health and hygiene.
Bidisha Saikia, a resident of Guwahati and a second-year student of Masters in Social Work in Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Guwahati, when she heard an incident where an 18-year-old girl in Baram, Udalguri district of Assam state died on April 23rd, 2017 because during her periods she was using a cloth and through that parasites entered through her vagina and ate away her intestines left her shocked and saddened. Since then, she was thinking of coming up with an initiative of setting up pad vending machines in the remote areas of Assam which is easily accessible to girls.
Saikia said, “When I was in school I had faced lots of challenges during my period days. Whenever I asked for a pad from my teachers the answer I used to get was a no. Such incidents disheartened me but I never questioned it, later when I went to Delhi for my higher studies, it is for the first time I saw a pad vending machine in my college, Jesus and Mary College. That was empowering for me and I thought of implementing the same in my state starting from government schools as many girls in my state are still unaware of how to use pads.”
“Keeping in mind to empower the girls of my state, in February 2019, I launched my online campaign called #BleedwithDignity as a part of my online fellowship called She Creates Change with Change.org foundation. When I applied for the fellowship, I wrote this petition of installing pad vending machines in government schools and luckily I got selected. In the petition, I have mentioned some decision makers like the Assam Health Minister, Education Minister and so on. They need to approve it first then I can take my campaign to the next step,” she added.
“Menstruation is a taboo in Assam even when we worship a menstruating Goddess and celebrate when a girl gets her first periods. My petition has already gathered the support of over 82,000 people and it continues to grow by the day,” she further added.
On May 28th, 2019 celebrating World Menstrual Hygiene Day she along with a Guwahati based artist Neelim Mahanta installed a mural titled “#BleedwithDignity” in the Parijat Academy in the city with collaboration with NEthing, a collective, concept store and shared space which hosts books and products from the North East. The mural is in a blood red colour with small white flowers and a woman holding a bloodstained pad which clearly is breaking the stereotypes.
Saikia added, “The Assam government in its 2018 Budget announced a stipend for girls from an underprivileged background to buy sanitary napkins and this shows its willingness to focus on menstrual health of teenage girls in the state. Though it is a welcome move, the fact still remains that a majority of girls feel shy about asking a sanitary napkin and don’t know how to use it. I want to change this with my campaign and reach out as many people as I can.”
Speaking about the forthcoming plans of her campaign #BleedwithDignity, Saikia informed that she has planned to form a town hall committee in her institute as of now to spread awareness of menstrual hygiene.