Make Menstrual and Adolescent Health Awareness mandatory for Govt. schools in Chandigarh

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Priya*, a student of class VIII, had heard of a ‘monthly curse’ which made girls bleed from ‘somewhere down below’. Now it was upon her.
The change in her life was drastic.
No more running joyfully in the playground.
Forbidden to touch the kitchen utensils.  
Forbidden to even touch her beloved prayer book or go near the holy altar.
She was filled with shame.
All because people around her believed she became  ‘impure’ during her periods. Her menstrual blood was ‘dirty’.
Her life was on a downward spiral, and she hated it, hated her body.
She had no one to guide her.
Navjot*, a lively 13-year old boy, was going through a different hell. He had begun to have sudden erections and night emissions. He had become the target of obscene jokes and predictions  about contracting an unmentionable disease.
He became sullen and withdrawn, reacting violently at every taunt.
He too had begun to hate his life, his body.
And he too had no one to guide him.
Priya and Navjot are not isolated cases in some village.
They are students of a Govt. Model  school in Chandigarh.
 Chandigarh, a SMART city, the educational hub of North India.
Teenagers in Govt. schools of Chandigarh need Menstrual and Adolescent Health Awareness(MAHA) training right NOW!
In a research study done in a Govt. Model Sr. Sec. School in Chandigarh by NGO Sanjh Jagori, the misconceptions regarding bodily changes at puberty, specifically menstruation, were shocking.
**Researchers from the Dept. of Community Medicine, PGIMER, Chandigarh have also reported in their study conducted in 12 Chandigarh govt. schools that there is an uncomfortable silence and strong sense of shame associated with menstruation. Girls often skip school during their menstrual period.The researchers have emphasized the need for incorporating MAHA in the school curriculum.
I experienced the truth of this myself when my colleagues and I recently conducted awareness sessions with boys and girls of Classes VIII and IX on Menstrual and Adolescent Health in a Govt. Model School in the city.  There was not a single girl or boy who did not believe that menstrual blood was impure or dirty. None of them knew about the biological processes of menstruation or nocturnal emissions.
We realized that interacting with these young boys and girls in a matter-of –fact, supportive, non-judgmental manner about the physical and emotional changes at adolescence helped to remove many misconceptions, fears and doubts. Besides imparting accurate information on menstrual health and hygiene, the sessions opened up dialogues on respect for one’s body and feelings and those of others,on the right to say ‘no’,and on the need to call out perpetrators of ‘bad touch’ or sexual harassment.
The relief on Priya’s and Navjot’s faces, as well as on the faces of the girls and boys in Classes VIII and IX, was clearly visible.
They could talk about ‘periods’ as a natural, normal bodily occurrence.
They could run and play, bathe and pray, go to school or to their place of worship without fear or shame.
Life was beautiful, once again!
I am convinced that the silence, stigma and taboos about menstruation and puberty need to be replaced with dialogue and dignity.
Every girl and boy has the Right to Education and the Right to Live with Dignity. 
Support this cause by signing my petition, asking the Chandigarh Administration to:
1.   Make Menstrual and Adolescent Health Awareness (MAHA) sessions mandatory for all girls and boys from class VIII upward in govt. schools in the city in each academic year
2.   Develop a framework based on inputs from NGOs, counsellors  and GOI’s training manual for ASHA
3.   Involve NGOs/ volunteer teachers /doctors to impart training on MAHA
4.   Cover all govt. schools in U.T. Chandigarh, in a phased manner by Children’s Day 2019
5.   Ensure compliance in all govt. schools through proper documentation in Annual Report of each school every year
Let’s create a society where each and every young girl can manage her periods hygienically and confidently without curtailing her daily activities, and where boys respect the changes in their own bodies and in those of all girls and women.
Let’s take the first step together.
 Sign this petition NOW.
Let’s make Chandigarh girls and boys MAHA ! 


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