By Srilekha Chakraborty
Pakur, Oct. 31, 2018: Khusmi (name changed), stared at me when asked her about the disposal mechanism for sanitary napkins in their schools.
“Changing pads? I have never changed in school. I either don’t come to school or if I come, I change when I go back to my home,” said the ninth grader from Littipara in the Pakur, one of the backward districts of Jharkhand state in eastern India.
Khusmi has a six-hour long school and it takes about an hour on a bicycle for her to reach school and get back home, during which she could never change her sanitary pad. She, like many girls in Jharkhand, chose the easiest way-skipping school during periods.
I took a workshop on menstrual hygiene for Khusmi and her friends in July. It was the first time the school had a discussion on menstrual hygiene. I took the session and came back but Khushmi and her friends wanted to bring a change in their school. They wanted to have a dustbin for the disposal of sanitary pads at her school.
The next few Bal Sansad (children’s parliament) and the School Management Meetings had this fiery discussion as their main agenda. Khusmi strategized a plan with her friends and consistently worked towards getting buckets for disposal of pads in school with the help of a grassroots organization named NEEDS (Network for Enterprise Enhancement and Development Support).
The meetings initially did not yield good results but Khusmi did not stop to convince the school authority to solve the issue. She discussed with the project staffs and finally wrote an application to the principal and the assistant engineer, Pakur Sanitation Department to help her out with the issue.
*The good news is that Khusmi has recently got a dustbin now and soon will get an incinerator in her school. That is the power we are giving to these young girls of Jharkhand.
It’s a fact that young girls in rural India are actually missing schools due to unavailability of proper disposal mechanism and bathrooms during periods. It’s important that girls like Khushmi get opportunities to bring about a change in the way menstruation is perceived in rural schools.
Khusmi now has been selected as a Health Minister in Bal Sansad of her school, to monitor the issue on health and sanitation and is the reason that many other girls in the school don’t miss their school during periods.
In the coming days, I am trying to reach out to journalists and decision makers on this petition, so that we make the life of many more Khusmis a bit easier with this “dustbin revolution.”