Neera was awakened by the doorbell. It was 2.30 pm on a hot summer afternoon and she had fallen asleep on the couch after lunch. She wondered who could be at the door in such sweltering heat.
On opening the door, she saw a young girl standing with a pleasant smile.
Neera recognized her. She stayed in the next building of her society.“Do you have few minutes aunty?” she asked.“Yes, sure dear” she invited her in.
They settled in the living room. The girl was carrying a hand-drawn chart.
“Aunty we are doing a school project on menstrual health and hygiene. My teacher asked me to go around our building and talk to at least five women”, said the girl as she unfurled her chart paper and held it up right for her to see.
Neera smiled in encouragement.
“My assignment is about sanitary waste disposal. Aunty do you know, there is a correct way to do it rather than just throwing it away in the dustbin casually wrapped in newspaper?”
This made Neera really interested. All this while, she was simply putting the used sanitary pad in a piece of newspaper, make a tight ball to close it and throw it in the dustbin.
The girl continued excitedly, “You have to wrap the used napkin or tampon in a newspaper or toilet paper tightly. It should be done in such a way that the wrapping doesn’t open up easily. All edges should be closed properly.
And aunty this is not all. You have to make a big red dot on it.”Now this was something new for Neera. “You mean to say I have to decorate the packet” she asked, bewildered.
The girl broke into laughter. “No aunty. Not like that. The red dot or mark is important for the waste segregation employees to know that the packet contains any used non-biodegradable sanitary product. A pad or a tampon.
The biodegradable waste can be decomposed in a natural manner by the process of composting. Non-biodegradable waste is sent to incinerators to be burnt in huge furnaces or for recycling. This is good for the environment.
Aunty, another important thing, never flush your pad or tampon as it will clog the drain”, she said in a serious tone, pointing towards sections of the chart where she had drawn some illustrations.
Neera was impressed with her way of explaining and composure. She prods her to tell more about the project, wondering if she knew about other menstrual hygiene products as well.
“What about menstrual cups? Do you know how to use menstrual cups and about their cleaning?”
“Yes, of course I know. Menstrual cups are reusable, bell -shaped insertable devices used to collect menstrual blood inside the vaginal canal. After every 8-9 hours, they have to be removed, the content should be disposed and the cup must be thoroughly washed with water and reinserted. Once the menstrual cycle is over, you have to sterilize it in boiling water for 8-10 minutes. Make sure you dry it properly before storing it for the next cycle.”
Neera was impressed with her thorough knowledge.
“When I was your age, I used to use cloth pads that my grandma stitched for me from her old cotton saris. I have heard now there are nicely stitched, good quality cloth pads available in the market. How to wash the reusable cloth pads and dry them?”
The girl said, “We must soak the used cloth pads in cold water for 2-3 hours. It’s advisable to avoid hot water because it sets the blood stains. Wash it with soap water until the water runs clear. You must dry them out in harsh sunlight for at least 4-5 hours. ”
Neera listened to her with rapt attention. She was indeed a bright young girl.
Before leaving, the girl suggested to click few selfies with Neera to include them in her project.
As Neera bid her farewell, she felt glad to see the progressive changes that times had brought.
Mensuration is slowing breaking its shackles from being ‘whispered’ and considered a taboo; society is coming of age and talking about menstrual issues openly.