Period Privilege and The People of Bhagalpur
Updated: Dec 16, 2022
But first, what is a privilege walk?
A privilege walk is a group activity wherein people stand in a line across a room or a place and answer questions about certain privileges.
This activity makes people aware of the different privileges they might have, a fantastic approach to start a conversation on diversity and inclusion.
Why did we do it?
We conducted this activity in Bhagalpur a few weeks ago in our attempt to spread menstrual awareness and reduce the stigma around it. We also aimed to find out the privilege of the participants regarding the topic of menstruation. It ranges from being educated about different period products, what the process is, to accessibility standpoints.
What we found
We asked them questions related to their experience wrt menstruation, pain, period products they have access to, if they are able to talk about menstruation, etc.
Both menstruating and non menstruating individuals took part in the privilege walk. This was done to get a clear picture of both the sides of the common folk. The details are in the next paragraphs.
Amongst the seven menstruators, some of them said that their father bought period products for them. The ones who bought it themselves stated their disapproval for the black polythene covering. A couple of the participants stated that their older siblings along with their mothers had told them about periods before they got them while the others reported to knowing about it through biology class. Majority said that they were neither shamed because of their periods nor felt any shame towards it. They mutually expressed that they did not get pampered with ice creams or chocolates when they had cramps but rather hot water bags.
When asked if their daily life and college-going gets hindered due to periods, most of them mentioned no serious issues other than tiredness and a lower ease to do work. Three of them stated that they had neither a heavy flow nor excessive cramps during the process while the rest expressed that it varied depending on the day of the period. Most of them conveyed a period positive family environment along with an ease to talk to the non menstruating members about it and their friends.
A few of them expressed their openness to seek help from a stranger during periods while the others didn't. Tampons, Cloth pads and menstrual cups were brought into the discussion when inquired of their information about other period products. None of them had tried any other product other than pads. (cloth/disposable)
Some revealed that pads were available at their school when needed but at a cost of 10/- and elucidate upon the unavailability of clean toilets.
None of them mentioned being able to talk to non-menstruator regarding this. They mutually expressed that all the individuals in their families could attend Pujas or other religious ceremonies even if they were on their periods. On speaking up after viewing the practice of certain period taboos, (not going to the kitchen, temples) two of them stated that they would not do so while others favored intervention.
Other than one, none of them had been to a gynae but were willing to go to if needed or knew about conditions like PCOS/PCOD etc. They collectively agreed that abstaining a menstruator's visit to temples or religious ceremonies was not something that they agreed to and that they were allowed to be a part of such activities regardless.
Amongst the 9 non-menstruating partakers, 8 out of them stated that they could explain what periods were if someone asked them about it. They collectively mentioned that none of them were informed about it at their households. With regard to period products, only one of them had bought them to help out a menstruator.
Pertaining to the participants who has attended school, they admitted that they came to know about menstruation through their biology classes for the first time. When asked if they could discuss this with their families or had been shamed for doing so, 88%(7) of them they had never brought it up in the first place and did not have the right environment. 22%(2) of them said that they had bought chocolates and ice creams for a menstruator suffering from cramps and had conversation with them about it while the rest did not.
Touching on the topic of gender, the non existence of only two genders was accepted by and large. Some of them reported the usage of the word 'Kinnar' and also expressed that they would involve themselves in an altercation if someone is being disrespected by being called a 'Chhakka'
All of them answered yes to if India puts taxes on the sale of period products. (India does not put taxes on period products, it was scrapped in July 2018 as per the new GST regime.)
Privilege walk with the youth of Bhagalpur helped us learn what they think about menstruation, if they are aware of different menstrual products, why they follow taboos. Our findings dictate that people seem to be aware of basic knowledge around menstruation and its do's and don'ts. However, we witnessed a different side while shooting our documentary "Ashhudh" (watch it here). It is true that more appropriate answers could be expected along with more people well informed about periods and the products used. But, we acknowledge the fact that it is a process. That is why aim to direct our efforts towards the creation of a society with proper knowledge about menstruation and end the stigma around it.
Menstrual hygiene is a right and not a privilege.