A taboo-free way to talk about periods | Aditi Gupta

A taboo-free way to talk about periods | Aditi Gupta


Periods. Blood. Menstruation. Gross. Secret. Hidden. Why? A natural biological process that every girl and woman
goes through every month for about half of her life. A phenomenon that is so significant that the survival and propagation
of our species depends on it. Yet we consider it a taboo. We feel awkward
and shameful talking about it. When I got my first periods, I was told to keep it
a secret from others — even from my father and brother. Later when this chapter
appeared in our textbooks, our biology teacher skipped the subject. (Laughter) You know what I learned from it? I learned that it is really
shameful to talk about it. I learned to be ashamed of my body. I learned to stay unaware of periods in order to stay decent. Research in various parts of India shows that three out of every 10 girls
are not aware of menstruation at the time of their first periods. And in some parts of Rajasthan this number is as high as nine
out of 10 girls being unaware of it. You’d be surprised to know that most of the girls
that I have spoken to, who did not know about periods
at the time of their first menstruation thought that they have got blood cancer and they’re going to die soon. Menstrual hygiene
is a very important risk factor for reproductive tract infections. But in India, only 12 percent
of girls and women have access to hygienic ways
of managing their periods. If you do the math, 88 percent of girls and women use
unhygienic ways to manage their periods. I was one of them. I grew up in a small town
called Garhwa, in Jharkhand, where even buying a sanitary napkin
is considered shameful. So when I started getting my periods, I began with using rags. After every use
I would wash and reuse them. But to store them, I would hide and keep it
in a dark, damp place so that nobody finds out
that I’m menstruating. Due to repeated washing
the rags would become coarse, and I would often get rashes
and infections using them. I wore these already for five years
until I moved out of that town. Another issue
that periods brought in my life those of the social restrictions that are imposed upon our girls
and women when they’re on their periods. I think you all must be aware of it, but I’ll still list it
for the few who don’t. I was not allowed to touch or eat pickles. I was not allowed to sit on the sofa
or some other family member’s bed. I had to wash my bed sheet
after every period, even if it was not stained. I was considered impure and forbidden from worshipping or touching
any object of religious importance. You’ll find signposts outside temples denying the entry
of menstruating girls and women. Ironically, most of the time it is the older woman who imposes such restrictions
on younger girls in a family. After all, they have grown up
accepting such restrictions as norms. And in the absence of any intervention, it is the myth and misconception that propagate
from generation to generation. During my years of work in this field, I have even come across stories where girls have to eat
and wash their dishes separately. They’re not allowed
to take baths during periods, and in some households they are even
secluded from other family members. About 85 percent of girls
and women in India would follow one or more restrictive
customs on their periods every month. Can you imagine what this does to the self-esteem
and self-confidence of a young girl? The psychological trauma
that this inflicts, affecting her personality, her academic performance and every single aspect of growing up
during her early formative years? I religiously followed all these
restrictive customs for 13 years, until a discussion with my partner, Tuhin, changed my perception
about menstruation forever. In 2009, Tuhin and I were pursuing
our postgraduation in design. We fell in love with each other and I was at ease
discussing periods with him. Tuhin knew little about periods. (Laughter) He was astonished to know
that girls get painful cramps and we bleed every month. (Laughter) Yeah. He was completely shocked to know about the restrictions that are imposed
upon menstruating girls and women by their own families and their society. In order to help me with my cramps, he would go on the Internet
and learn more about menstruation. When he shared his findings with me, I realized how little I knew
about menstruation myself. And many of my beliefs
actually turned out to be myths. That’s when we wondered: if we, being so well educated, were so ill-informed about menstruation, there would be millions of girls out there
who would be ill-informed, too. To study — to understand the problem better, I undertook a year-long research to study
the lack of awareness about menstruation and the root cause behind it. While it is generally believed that menstrual unawareness
and misconception is a rural phenomenon, during my research, I found that it is as much
an urban phenomenon as well. And it exists with the educated
urban class, also. While talking to many
parents and teachers, I found that many of them actually
wanted to educate girls about periods before they have started
getting their menstrual cycle. And — but they lacked
the proper means themselves. And since it is a taboo, they feel inhibition
and shameful in talking about it. Girls nowadays get their periods
in classes six and seven, but our educational curriculum teaches girls about periods
only in standard eight and nine. And since it is a taboo, teachers still
skip the subject altogether. So school does not
teach girls about periods, parents don’t talk about it. Where do the girls go? Two decades ago and now — nothing has changed. I shared these finding with Tuhin
and we wondered: What if we could create something that would help girls understand
about menstruation on their own — something that would help
parents and teachers talk about periods
comfortably to young girls? During my research, I was collecting a lot of stories. These were stories of experiences
of girls during their periods. These stories would make girls
curious and interested in talking about menstruation
in their close circle. That’s what we wanted. We wanted something
that would make the girls curious and drive them to learn about it. We wanted to use these stories
to teach girls about periods. So we decided to create a comic book, where the cartoon characters
would enact these stories and educate girls about menstruation
in a fun and engaging way. To represent girls
in their different phases of puberty, we have three characters. Pinki, who has not gotten her period yet, Jiya who gets her period
during the narrative of the book and Mira who has already
been getting her period. There is a fourth character, Priya Didi. Through her, girls come to know
about the various aspects of growing up and menstrual hygiene management. While making the book, we took great care that none of the illustrations
were objectionable in any way and that it is culturally sensitive. During our prototype testing,
we found that the girls loved the book. They were keen on reading it and knowing more and more
about periods on their own. Parents and teachers were
comfortable in talking about periods to young girls using the book, and sometimes even boys
were interested in reading it. (Laughter) (Applause) The comic book helped
in creating an environment where menstruation ceased to be a taboo. Many of the volunteers took this prototype
themselves to educate girls and take menstrual awareness workshops
in five different states in India. And one of the volunteers
took this prototype to educate young monks and took it to this monastery in Ladakh. We made the final version of the book,
called “Menstrupedia Comic” and launched in September last year. And so far, more than 4,000 girls have been
educated by using the book in India and — (Applause) Thank you. (Applause) And 10 different countries. We are constantly translating the book
into different languages and collaborating with local organizations to make this book available
in different countries. 15 schools in different parts of India have made this book
a part of their school curriculum to teach girls about menstruation. (Applause) I am amazed to see how volunteers, individuals, parents,
teachers, school principals, have come together and taken this menstrual awareness
drive to their own communities, have made sure that the girls
learn about periods at the right age and helped in breaking this taboo. I dream of a future
where menstruation is not a curse, not a disease, but a welcoming change in a girl’s life. And I would — (Applause) And I would like to end this with a small request
to all the parents here. Dear parents, if you would be ashamed of periods, your daughters would be, too. So please be period positive. (Laughter) Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts to “A taboo-free way to talk about periods | Aditi Gupta”

  1. if you manage to reach five women, the five will send yours to others and win, win situation, if you are one and you get two to listen to your massage, you become three of the same idea.

  2. One of my closest friends believed, until her sophomore year in high school, that her period was her stomach bleeding. When we (her friends) found out, we educated her ourselves. We couldn't believe it, considering her parents were pharmacists and her sister was studying to be a neurosurgeon. But their family had literally never talked about menstruation to their daughters, it was so taboo.

  3. Why is it so funny that boys want to know about periods? I don't think it's shameful to have had the taboo, but if we're going to move forward we need to do it completely–feminism includes educating people with male bodies about how female bodies differ.

  4. I guess all the good TED talks are over. Remember when TED was mindblowing and on the cutting edge of human thought?

  5. I've always been super scared about bleeding through my clothes in public or my period just popping up at an inconvenient time, but then I think: well I guess I can't really control when my uterus just decides to start ripping its self apart, can I? It's not my fault that it happened… I never wanted it to happen, but I guess it just did. Oh well I am a girl there are probably 10 other people here on their periods.

  6. Very nice presentation. Thank you! The book is a good thing for the girls! They should know it is nothing to be ashamed of and it is a natural function of the female body.

  7. A friend of mine from middle school, who was Pakistani, told me that her mom beat her when she first got her period because she didn't keep the new toilet that they just bought clean. At the time, I was like, "Wow. How did female humans even survive to adulthood throughout history?" You would think that every girl would have died from unhygienic practices, killed herself from shame, or something else like sexual abuse or overwork. And yet, we're all still here… It's almost amazing that we've made it.

    Btw, didn't Disney make a short animated film about this in like the 50s or something? And it's quite tame. Why not show that film?

  8. I love this talk. I remember when I was little I was so excited to learn about periods and other things about growing up. It was still a little taboo in school. My mom told me not to let any boys know, or they'd make fun of me. (Though they never did.) but there was always a camaraderie among my girlfriends. It's sad that so many girls are deprived of an education about their own bodies.

  9. funny how we don't hide tissue papers or keep our heads down while going to the bathroom, because everyone knows it's normal, it's a biological process, everyone uses does it. No big deal. So why are periods any different?

  10. This is part of the sick culture the North Indians brought to India. The Bible talks about these in the Old testament. A bunch of sexist old Jewish men who were scared of girls made up these rules. With the coming of Christ, all this changed. This is not true in South India. I knew a Tamil girl who skipped school for a day because her family had a huge celebration with all relatives male and female to celebrate her reaching puberty. They actually celebrate this event and think it is a beautiful thing. North. In south India, they also respect their women more.

  11. It's weird to hear the perspective of someone from a completely different culture. As a boy, I knew more about menstruation than I wanted to when I was eight from watching a sanitary pad commercial on TV every 15 minutes between morning cartoons.

  12. I actually thing women very are casual about it (in my country at least). My friend-girls take the pill in from of male friends (like me) and they even excuse themselves to go to the bathroom, or when in pain, using slang for "period" (e.g. "Visit from the Red Queen").

  13. m sure they will work it out for themselves when it happens right? or do you think everyone is going be sliming around like red slugs?

  14. This is a great talk! My only complaint is the crowd; they kept laughing at moments that weren't supposed to be funny. Rude.

  15. Listening to this I suddenly remembered how in the 4th grade here in Israel, they took us to the library and explained periods to us, which in retrospect I remember being quite informative. I was a really sensitive child and I was petrified of blood, so I panicked. Kind of funny to think that I actually cried at the thought of bleeding, when the worst pain is the cramps and the back pain!

  16. The audience laughing is very awkward during this talk. Is it really funny that her husband is looking on the Internet to help her with cramps! He sounds awesome and what she is doing is fantastic for women.

  17. If only such a natural process, that shows girls becoming true women and shows that the woman works as she should wasn't taboo in the first place. I talk about mine freely because it shouldn't be hidden and not talked about. We can make it less of a taboo by talking about it more.

  18. Periods are still taboo?! (I mean, of course I know they are but seriously…) I don't talk about it openly with most people, but periods are the most natural thing.

  19. You did a god job,but the book is not free.when a girl cant afford to buy a sanitary napkins how can she will buy this book, the price is @350 which is almost 4x of what a napkin cost

  20. There is another way to look at menstrual restrictions. In countries like India where rural girls and women often do a lot of tedious labor (such as collecting hardened cow feces to use as firewood for cooking stoves) having a week where you are so restricted that all you can do is sit around in your room is actually a break from hard labor. And I imagine that the further back you go in history, the harder the labor was as there were fewer technological advancements to make daily labor more easy.

  21. One of the best talks I have ever seen here in this Channel, She has done an amazing and a beautiful Job, congratulations for her.
    Great message, we have to change the way we educate our children to give them a better perspective of the life and with that give them a better future.

  22. Boys should also be made aware… Or we might also end up like Tohin.
    But, yes, girls should be be the primary target.

  23. Just amazing… It was not clear for me that in many counties the period is not only an taboo it's handled like an illness! Thanks for teaching me that!

  24. Everyone laughs that boys might be interested in the talk, but that's half the battle to not making it taboo, if it's just a normal event to both sexes then there is no need to hide it.

  25. When I got my first period I thought I had a hemorrhoid because I read somewhere about the symptoms and I thought I had them lol

  26. I was born in Denmark. Here periodes are a open subject. And I was very ready once I got my periode thanks to my mom explaining it and helping me out. But I moved to Los Angeles – USA, before I got my periode. But it started soon after mvoing there. And for me I had no problem going to my teachers asking for pads if I forgot them at school. And the teachers just looked pale and confused at me as if I was some alien.
    I even once expirenced that a boy found a pad in one of the girls backpacks – unknowing what it was but finding out it was sticky, he got the brilliant idea to stick the pad to his forhead. Not realizing that was a problem. And with out explanation got detention.
    I tried to argue against it and wanted to explain what it was and why. But I was warned if I did I'd get detention as well..
    Glad I'm back in Denmark haha! On my periode now and I say – let the blood flow! My nasty crazy monthly pain. Natrual part of life. Shark week. The Gore hotel o3o
    Booyah
    My tummy hurts x.x

  27. i was never told about menstruation. I was also never told about how to use condoms. I have all my knowledge about these things from the Internet, (some from school) because my parents were too shy to tell me. I was ashamed of my period, and i used small towels as pads, because i always had a fear of buying real pads.

  28. Australia is so lucky we are exepted for or periods year 5 period talk with school year 6sex ed explains to boys about period and the reasons it happens so boys understand

  29. When I was in elementary (I'm in highschool now) I was in grade 5 and we had go to a class with the nurse to talk about puberty and periods and we got like a little video to watch and it talked about everything then the nurse gave us like a little pad just in case ….. let's just im glad we got that because the next day i got my period 😐😐😐but had the pad at least 😂

  30. I went to internet to gather information on periods…..that was sad.
    But anyway.. The site I went to is kidshealthorg.

  31. I always hated periods i didnt think i could hate them more but if i lived in a country like she grew up in i would hate it more

  32. Awareness of menstruation and hygiene is very much needed for girls. In the other way our young boys should understand the values so that should have respects for girls instead of passing cheap comments on periods. It's my experience I m telling.

  33. I was informed from the school about the school when I and my other class girls adout in5standerd we wear only ten that time

  34. Thanks for this. Growing up in Africa, I am also aware of the negative feelings towards this process that actually keeps humanity alive.
    I now have 2 girls, 1 is 9 and I'm actually researching how to have this discussion without bringing my negative associations to it😊

  35. Periods are 100% natural! The taboo around it is just totally unfair. It's not just unjust, its harmful to women's health. No female should be cast out for being on their period! Ms./Mrs Aditi Gupta, you are extremely lucky to have met someone who would do his research, someone who was not grossed out by menstruation. Thank you sooo much for addressing the stigma!

  36. When I first got my period, one of my friends ( who had had it for about a year) tried to help me, but she barely knew anything! She thought tampons made you lose your virginity, and didn't really get what was going on inside her, because her parents never talked about it with her!

  37. My mom was the complete opposite, she was not nervous at all to talk about boobs, vaginas, periods, and all that taboo stuff. But I feel like when she tells me that I can tell her anything, shes lying and is ashamed of me. But I guess its better than so many girls thinking they're dying, if I had thought I wasnt told anything about periods, when I had got it, I'd think I was losing blood and dying.

  38. 👌👌👍👍👏👏👏 👏 what a fabulous speech .😘
    Why don't everyone be like this, freely talking about periods
    As it is not at all a taboo it's natural

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