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Now, a website to assist you in dealing with periods
SHWETA SHARMA  24th Nov 2012

An illustration on Menstrupedia

eaching puberty, especially for girls, comes along with its share of embarrassments. "I still remember those three days when I got my first periods. I was confined to a room, not allowed to go out, see boys or even touch anyone; until on the fourth day, when I was made to sit under a banana tree and given bath in front of the neighbourhood ladies. My puberty was celebrated, no less than a grand marriage," says Kirti Walia (name changed). "I might have been excited then, as I received gifts and blessings but I had no clue; I was just in Class Six. But today, it is the most discomfiting moment of my life."

Experiencing comparable menstruation-related problems and the lack of easily available information on the subject compelled Aditi Gupta to take up a research project in this domain which further seeded the idea for Menstrupedia, a fun and resourceful guide to healthy menstruation.

"During my research, I interacted with school girls, NGOs and parents on this subject. Surprisingly, I found that even the NCERT books and many other text books introduce menstruation much after the girls have already begun having their periods. I realised that the best time to educate a girl about it is when she is most likely to experience menarche," says Gupta. At the end of her research she created a prototype, which was a printed comic strip in Hindi. It was distributed among schoolgirls to gauge their reaction about the medium and the message. But despite garnering positive response, the project had to be shelved due to inadequate funds.

"I learned a lot from the prototype though," she adds. "It made us confident that an illustrative and comical approach to explain menstruation eliminates the sense of shame inherent in the subject. It also engages the reader so that he or she is more likely to read through the content and learn. Once aware, people automatically begin to question the age-old myths and taboos related to it," she adds

A purpose of Menstrupedia is to fight the prevailing notion of impurity associated with menstruation, as this notion leads to many myths and practices that are detrimental to a girl’s self esteem. — Aditi Gupta

Launched on 29 October, Menstrupedia provides useful information about getting your periods — stuff that every woman must know to manage her periods effectively and help parents and educators educate young girls. "Another purpose of Menstrupedia is to fight the prevailing notion of impurity associated with menstruation, as this notion leads to many myths and practices that are detrimental to a girl's self esteem, and her status in the society," explains Gupta.

The website uses information reviewed by physicians and gynaecologists, facts made available by the Ministry of Rural Development and also organisations like Avert, Mayo Clinic and Kids Health. It has three main sections: Quick Guide, an illustrated reference guide that provides information related to menstruation in a comprehensive manner; Q&A, where people can ask questions related to menstruation (sometimes questions are answered by community members themselves but unlike a forum, the focus is more on finding an answer to a posed question, rather than engaging in a discussion); and the blog where insightful articles about menstruation can be found.

"During our field studies we have found that people agree that girls should be made aware about menstruation, but what is lacking is proper means to help educate. Once Menstrupedia is developed completely, we will translate it into various languages and make printed copies available. It would become an indispensable resource for not only girls and women but also for parents and educators," says Gupta.

The team also plans to launch an online comic strip introducing the concept of menstruation to young girls. Even a mobile application, which women can use to track their menstrual cycles, is being planned.

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