Menstruation is a natural biological process that women experience each month. It involves the shedding of the uterine lining mixed with the release of blood. It is an important topic to be discussed openly and honestly as it affects half of the world's population. Since men do not experience periods, it has been only a woman's problem over centuries and that needs to urgently change.
Dr. Tejal Kanwar, Gynaecologist and Menstrual Health Consultant with Ujaas, says, "Menstruation has had a long history of taboos in various cultures and the menstruating woman is frequently looked down upon as it is considered unclean and impure. By breaking the silence and engaging in conversations around this topic, we can help foster understanding, empathy, and support for women. It's essential for men, the other half of the population, to be knowledgeable about the impact it has on the day-to-day lives of women so they can support women, be more sensitive to their needs and contribute to creating a more inclusive society."
"Having conversations around menstruation with men and boys is an ongoing process. It requires patience and continuous efforts to promote inclusivity and dispel stigmas and myths surrounding it," she adds.
Dr. Tejal suggested a few steps which can help towards this goal:
Education as a top priority: Many men and boys lack accurate knowledge about the biological process, its significance and the challenges that women face at school and at workplaces. The education must start in schools in an inclusive environment with boys and girls and all details around menstrual health, reproductive health and sexual health covered through lesson plans. Basic knowledge must be shared, and misconceptions must be clarified.
Inclusive environment: Foster a safe and non-judgmental space where everyone feels comfortable discussing menstruation. Encourage respect and open dialogues around the topic.
Encourage men to actively listen to women: Men should listen to women's concerns around menstruation and validate their feelings and be compassionate towards them. They must consider the emotional and social aspects and discuss with women how they can support and help reduce various challenges faced by women.
Help bust the myths: Men should talk openly about the cultural taboos and challenge and question the norms that perpetuate discomfort.
Engagement of men in various initiatives: Men must volunteer and participate in awareness campaigns and support policy changes. They must highlight their potential role in promoting gender equality.
Menstrual products must be treated as part of everyday life just like buying any other products.
Address common concerns on how to arrange for proper disposal of sanitary pads and learn about various menstrual products and stay up to date with the basic knowledge. Provide resources for further information and discourage fake and wrong information by sharing only reputable websites and educational materials. Reading content must be freely available and easily accessible as well.
Speak to sons: Parents must discuss and sensitize their sons and also take help of the school counsellor to create awareness in their children. Community leaders can take up educational sessions for entire communities.
"The goal is to foster understanding and encourage men to become allies to break the stigma surrounding menstruation. Including men will create supportive brothers, empathetic fathers and understanding partners and that will help build social solidarity and a confident partnership," Dr. Tejal concludes.