Sustainable MEN-struation

“It never occurred to me that half of the world’s population goes through this cycle [menstruation] every month,” confessed Francis, an American friend and volunteer camera-man who helped me to make Masika, the documentary video on the impact of menstrual hygiene waste.

“I didn’t even know about the menstrual cycle, till my girlfriend told me,” shared Vivek, a social entrepreneur at a sustainability conference after my presentation on the environmental and social impact of menstrual hygiene waste.

And then there is this humorous video where men seek to explain menstruation.

Ah, as Gloria Steinem famously said, if men could menstruate . . . then maybe there would not be a need for a campaign like this. Maybe there wouldn’t be a need for all the protests that have been recently breaking out in college campuses across India and in online media all over the world. (In these protests women are not just breaking the silence; they are openly vociferous about the fact that they bleed every month and need to use a menstrual hygiene product.)

Personally I don’t feel the need to shout it from the roof-top about the fact that I bleed or tell the world what menstrual hygiene products I use, but such is our modern world, that the personal is social. The products that I choose to use, whether I like it or not, are dictated by corporate industries and policy-makers, who happen to be mostly men. And, ill-informed choices can affect not only a woman’s personal health, but public health due to the resulting pollution of our soil, water and air.

As a society and a culture, we need to be able to talk openly about all aspects of menstruation, from crucial health issues faced by a significant percentage of our population to the mountains of menstrual hygiene waste being generated. And together, we need to find holistic solutions so that we do not solve problems in one sector by creating problems in another sector. We need the other half of the population that does not menstruate, the men, to join the women to promote sustainable menstruation.

Just as our panelist from our inaugural webinar Frederique Appfel-Marglin pointed out, both men and women come together in rural Odisha to celebrate a festival on menstruation.


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