Menstruation is a natural process, and it must be treated in the same manner. In the 21st century, as we continue to uproot several stigmatizations associated with the natural phenomenon, it is important that we start from our homes itself. When we are able to uproot menstrual discrimination from our own homes, we are contributing towards women empowerment and building instrumental self-confidence – the kind of confidence that will help us challenge menstrual discrimination outside our homes.
Many menstruating individuals are not allowed in the kitchen and dining area of our homes. When doing so, they are barred from the basic conversations that go on in the kitchen, and excluded from knowing plans surrounding their family.
“Kitchen is the first political unit one can be a part of,” said Radha Paudel, a leading activist and the founder of Global South Coalition for Dignified Menstruation, a global level campaign. “It is legislative, executive and judiciary. If women are forbidden from participating there, how are they going to be questioning and challenging political beliefs later on in municipalities, parliaments and so on,” she added.
Being treated as impure and dirty, and thus not being allowed to touch any food or water, is one form of menstrual discrimination most menstruators face. However, there are several other subtle discriminatory practices that many might not be aware of. “In order to understand what dignified menstruation is, it is firstly important to understand what menstrual discrimination means,” said Paudel.
“When I was invited to a radio show, someone mentioned that their family does not follow the custom of restricting menstruating women, that they do not know anything related to menstrual discrimination. This in itself is discrimination,” Paudel stated. Being conditioned to wash undergarments shyly, hide when there is a leak, secretly have medications while experiencing menstrual cramps – these are all forms of discrimination. Not talking about menstruation as a natural process is menstrual discrimination as well, said Radha Paudel. It is where the negative emotional effects on menstruators remain unexpressed.
According to Global South Coalition for Dignified Menstruation, menstrual discrimination refers to taboos, shyness, restrictions, abuses and violence associated with menstruation throughout the life cycle of menstruators (girls, women, transmen, queer). And to be completely free of these discriminations and violence associated with menstruation is dignified menstruation.
The first step to achieving dignified menstruation is to focus on dignity front and center while talking about and discussing anything regarding menstruation. “Whether one is working on ‘menstruation and education’, or ‘menstruation and products’, or ‘menstruation and taxes’, or ‘menstruation and health’, or ‘menstruation and peace’ etc., they have to bring focus to dignity first and foremost,” declared Paudel.
To work towards accomplishing dignified menstruation in Nepal, Dignified Menstruation Campaign Nepal, which is a national level campaign launched by Radha Paudel Foundation, has been educating municipalities and provinces on why they should prioritize dignified menstruation. The campaign has been leading the work towards making several public spaces friendly towards dignified menstruation by themselves with zero funding from any third party.
Menstrual discrimination creates and encourages power and patriarchy. To fight against and transform this power held over women, dignified menstruation is important. It is needed in order for there to be development, justice and peace in societal, economic, cultural, and political fields. “Dignified menstruation is a key approach or strategy ”, shared Paudel.
If this strategy is not prioritized, one’s entire life circle can be negatively affected.“Power, thinking, societal, economic, political, environmental, education, health, water, hygiene, agriculture, sports – everything is affected by it”, said Radha Paudel.
“More than twelve fundamental human rights or basic rights guaranteed by our constitution are being violated when we discriminate against menstruating women,” Paudel said. “Whenever you are thirsty, you cannot go to the kitchen and drink water, eat food. You cannot bath or shower when you want to because you are not allowed to touch the tap. Where is the right to dignity? Right to water and health?” She added.
Individuals should be feeling excited, proud and dignified for having their menstruation, not ashamed, humiliated and dreading the upcoming violence or enforcement of restrictions and practices.
“Every house, school, bank, restaurant and office should be dignified menstruation-friendly, or else human rights can never be fully achieved. It has been seventy-three years since human rights started being openly discussed, but we are not talking about how menstrual discrimination is a violence of the human rights”, stated Paudel.