Lasya was in the 6th standard when her friend got her first period. Lasya did not know anything about periods, puberty, and menstrual health until that day in school. Later, when she went back home, Lasya spoke to her mother, asking why her friend had suddenly started bleeding. On hearing her friend’s experience, Lasya’s mother understood it was time she explained to her daughter about the monthly period cycle.
Whisper believes that nothing should come in the way of girls achieving their dreams. When girls miss out on school due to their periods, it means a missed opportunity. Creating awareness and acceptance for hygienic menstrual practices can play a big role in changing this scenario. And the brand is on a mission to do this. In 1995, Whisper introduced its Period education program to educate girls and their mothers on menstrual hygiene. So far, they have educated more than 5.4 crore girls on menstrual hygiene and provided access to free menstrual products. It has brought a paradigmatic shift in the period conversation. Where earlier girls were hesitant to openly discuss these issues with anyone but their friends, today they learn about these subjects from workshops at schools organised by Whisper. These workshops have facilitated a shift in the perspective towards periods and reduced the stigma associated with menstruation.
Lasya was curious to learn more, hence she googled some more information about the biological process. The next day at Oriental English High School, she further discussed this with her science teacher to understand the reasons behind the monthly flow and how to manage her periods.
“By the time I got my first period in the 9th standard, I already knew everything about periods through the period education workshops conducted by Whsiper. I knew it was a natural, biological process for women and that there was nothing to be afraid of,” she says.
Lasya struggled with menstrual cramps and period pain in her first few months. But, she never skipped school or missed her classes. The same cannot be said for every girl.
1 in 5 girls across India drops out of school once they hit puberty. According to the National Family Health Survey, of the 335 million menstruators, only 36 percent use sanitary napkins. Many women still resort to harmful choices that include using dirty rags, ash, mud, leaves, and soil to manage their monthly flow. Girls, therefore, are forced to skip or drop out of school post-puberty.
“Lasya’s mother knew the significance of explaining the menstrual cycle at the right age. And as a child, Lasya herself did not hold back from discussing the subject. But period education is still a taboo in many households. It does not help that we teach reproductive cycles and menstrual health management at a very later stage in standard 8th when most girls have already recorded their first period. We need to include these chapters early on in the curriculum so that children learn the right things instead of picking up half-baked knowledge from the internet,” says Gayathri, Lasya’s science teacher at Oriental English High School.
Teachers and principals across India are advocating for the school curriculum to introduce early period education so that girls are better aware of these biological processes and how to maintain their menstrual health. Until that happens though, many schools rely on initiatives such as those Whisper’s #KeepGirlsInSchool movement. Teachers are grateful for the multiple educational workshops, seminars, and other artistic measures conducted by Whisper on building awareness, access, and acceptance around hygiene and period management.
Whisper’s latest powerful movie, The Missing Chapter, has brought to light the glaring reality of India’s period story. Through a mysterious red piece of paper, the movie depicts the stigma associated with periods and how this forces girls to give up on their education.
Lasya says, “I love going to school, meeting my friends, and learning from my teachers who constantly motivate me to do better. I don’t have a big goal in life. I just want to study, study, study, take care of my mother and I want people to feel happy whenever they think of me or are with me.”