New Delhi: Menstruation is a natural bodily function and yet period shame along with lack of access to menstrual health and education continue to hold millions of girls and women back to this day. With the Covid19 pandemic, the situation has only worsened with even more restricted access to safe period products, menstrual health awareness and education. The Body Shop, the activist British beauty brand powered by purposeful feminismsets out to partner with CRY – Child Rights and You, a leading Indian non-profit organization, to make real change by raising awareness about Periods, Period Shame and the impact of Period Shame of India’s girls & women. Through this partnership, The Body Shop aims to normalize the conversation around periods and raise funds towards menstrual health and education efforts for communication deeply affected by the pandemic.
Periods are normal but India’s statistics around it are not –
– 20% of girls in rural India leave schools after getting their first period. This is a direct consequence of social stigma, shame, isolation and poor access to safe menstrual products and disposal facilities.
– After domestic chores, periods and the lack of menstrual amenities like Pads, Toilets for Girls and Disposal is the biggest reason for Indian girls missing school.
– 88% of menstruating women in India use unsanitary materials like dried leaves, ash, wood shavings, old fabric/rags, newspapers etc. to absorb menstrual discharge.
– Poor menstrual hygiene leading to 70% increase in incidents of reproductive tract infections.
Menstrual hygiene is recognized by the UN as a key global health issue and yet with Covid19, menstrual vulnerability has increased sharply and so has the gender health gap. Thismovement by The Body Shop is aimed to create an inclusive and long-term change on ground by including all genders in the conversation and working with CRY to bring about long-term attitudinal changes in disadvantaged communities.
Over the next 4 months, The Body Shop Indiawill partner with CRY for:
1. CreatingPeriod Awareness: Create heightened communication to normalize conversations around menstruation aimed at all genders using its wide network of stores, website and social media channels as touchpoints.
2. Raising Funds for Period Projects in Pandemic-hit Communities: Targeting a minimum commitment of INR 1.2 Mn, The Body Shop encourages its patrons and customers to support the cause with a small voluntary donation of INR 20 when shopping in stores or online.
3. Donating Period Products: Collect sealed period products as voluntary donations from consumers in Red Period Bins installed at all exclusive The Body Shop stores. All period products collected will be donated to local communities in need through CRY.
4. Collecting Pledges: Collect digital pledges at The Body Shop stores as well as different touch points from consumers, colleagues and beyondto propel personal action as below:
a. I pledge to NEVER HIDE my period products & carry them instead with pride
b. I pledge to tell a male FAMILY member about periods and have open conversations with everyone at home
c. I pledge to be honest about my period experiences and use the word ‘period’ with my FRIENDS instead of confusing code words
d. I pledge to make my COMMUNITY a period friendly environment, supporting education about period shame and providing quality products, private facilities and a proper disposable unit
e. I pledge to ask my SCHOOL to include expert period education in the curriculum
Through this initiative, The Body Shop and CRY are aiming to provide menstrual health awareness, education and free menstrual products to 10,000+ people across 4500 households. This campaign directly benefits underprivileged girls and women from slum communities in Delhi/NCR where access to menstrual health and products have been hit severely by the pandemic. This includes:
· Period Product distribution to 1000+ adolescent girls and women
· Period Pathshala Sessions to educate adolescent girls and boys on menstrual health and hygiene including usage of period products.
· Videos and Movie Screenings with adolescent girls and boys to build awareness and bust myths prevalent around menstruation
· Anemia check-up kiosks to screen for common menstrual health conditions
· Capacity building sessions with Front line health workers from community. Includes Anganwadi workers, ASHA, ANM and project team members to access benefit of Menstrual Hygiene Scheme (MHS) and access topublic sanitary pad schemes.
Shriti Malhotra, CEO, The Body Shop India said, “Our advocacy on real world issues remains our driving force. With our core focus on feminism and female empowerment, there is no denying that the pandemic has worsened the already critical issue of period shame and menstrual access. The statistics in our country around this are appalling and there can be no letting up in pushing this conversation forward in a post-pandemic India. This is a change that each of us has the power to make – by speaking out honestly about menstruation, taking personal action in our own spaces towards it and walking the talk in putting our financial support towards those who need this help the most. Shame-free periods, safe menstrual products and accurate menstrual education is not a womens’ cause – it is a human cause.”
Shraddha Kapoor, Brand Ambassador, The Body Shop India said, “It gives me immense joy to lend my voice for an issue that is so close to my heart. Period shame is deeply rooted in our upbringing and there is no better time than now to question its existence. Most Indian girls feeluncomfortable in talking about periods openly and this leads to lack of awareness of menstrual health in women. Along with The Body Shop, I pledge to contribute to this noble cause in every possible way that I can, small or big. I request you all to make a pledge, donate what you can and help create real change by ending period shame together.”
On their partnership with The Body Shop India, Ms. Puja Marwaha, CEO, Child Rights and You (CRY) said, “Field experiences gathered by CRY suggest that periods is a major reason behind girls dropping out of schools – a fact that is echoed by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) data which indicates that only 57% of adolescent girls between 15-19 years are blessed with any hygienic form of protection during their menstrual cycles. CRY is delighted to partner with The Body Shop, and together we intend to create social awareness about menstrual hygiene, and at the same time, attempt to amplify voices demanding the access to free and quality sanitary napkins, safe disposal mechanisms, functional toilets and regular awareness sessions on menstrual hygiene. We both strongly believe that awareness is the key to break the taboo and shame related to periods in our society.”