‘WE CAN’: The journey of Rotaract Club of IIT to combat the misjudgment regarding “Menstruation”

Anyone who has ever menstruated knows that this completely natural and inevitable bodily process comes with a load of societally-induced fear and shame, but why should talking about periods be so taboo? Shouldn’t we be working towards making period talk more normal?

The Rotaract Club of IIT, identified the need to change the narrative and set on its journey to normalize PERIODS with the initiative “WeCan”. The initiative began with a series of online sessions in December 2020, conducted by a gynecologist and a period advocate who touched upon the importance of monthly health and hygiene and the environmental impact due to menstrual waste. As for the second phase, the Rotaract Club of Informatics Institute of Technology (RACIIT), along with Happy Bleeding, Let’s talk, Yeheliya Foundation, Momiji Natural and Youth Rise longed to bring a change and break the taboo surrounding this topic through a social media campaign including thoughts from well-known public figures such as Saasha Karunarathne, Lochana Jayakodi, Sahlah Anees, Denathi Pussegoda, Dulinda Perera, Buwanaka Perera and Yonathan Rommel, Falan Andrea Jansen, Gangulee Walpola and many more. Apart from the social media campaign, the club conducted several awareness sessions at Sacred Heart Convent, Galle, Gnanissara Maha Vidyalaya, Aluthgama and Badanagoda Junior School, along with Ms. Nadeesha Paulis, the founder of Happy Bleeding, who also thrives to accomplish the same goals in breaking the stigma surrounding menstruation and educating young women. Throughout all these visits, the whole concept of breaking the stigma was highly emphasized whilst also engaging the students in normalizing the word ‘period’ and letting them know that being on their period or simply, being a woman does not signify impurity or whatsoever society tends to utter. 

Keeping the World Menstrual Hygiene Day (28th of May) in mind, the “Red dot challenge”, a campaign inspired by UNICEF India, was launched with the aim of busting all myths and promoting facts on menstrual hygiene, collectively inspiring all men, boys, women and girls to candidly talk about menstruation. The campaign attracted a massive reach through the sharing of project posters, videos on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok, with the hashtags #BreakTheStigmaWithRACIIT, #BreakTheStigma and #RedDotChallenge used across all platforms. Together with over 500 young men and women, from around the island, who voiced to “Break the Stigma’, the project had a reach of over 76,500 and over 25,500 views across all platforms. Additionally, in honor of Menstrual Hygiene Day, the club also took another step forward to combat period poverty in Sri Lanka and donated 25 sets of reusable sanitary pads, from Momiji Natural to girls from low-income families to assist in ensuring a safe and hygienic menstruation.

Upon covering the numerous sustainable goals, the club was able to bring a long-term impact through this project, thus successfully concluding the initiative for the Rotaract year 2020-21. The project was recognized as the Most Outstanding Initiative under Disease Prevention – Bronze, at the 31st Rotaract District Assembly which was held in June 2021.

Project “WeCan” aims to continue its journey to educate all menstruators and non-menstruators on the importance of being aware about menstruation. Moving forward, the club aims to carry out more awareness sessions for young boys and girls in rural areas, highlighting more on the reusable alternatives for sanitary products, and establishing the fact that menstrual health as well as sustainably maintaining our environment should be a top priority. As for this year, the club aims to promote the use of menstrual cups and reusable pads as they are more convenient and last longer than the regular disposable pads. In addition to which, the club also aims to conduct sessions for both young girls, their teachers and mothers on the correct ways to use these products. Apart from these, modifying the washrooms in rural schools, to fulfil all the criteria for a woman-friendly washroom is also another focus area. Additionally, through the Red Dot Challenge, the club expects to highlight the GreenTheRed concept which is a new addition by UNICEF India, promoting reusable menstrual products.

It is high time to finally abolish the absurd silence and shame that shroud this natural biological event. Menstruation, a sign of good health, must be normalized and celebrated. Even if one is unsure on how they can personally normalize period talk, they can always start by supporting RACIITians on their venture “WeCan” as they actively and publicly strive to eliminate menstruation off the list of taboo topics. The Rotaract Club of IIT, proudly invites the general public to join hands to break the stigma revolving around menstruation, because together “WeCan”.

Those who wish to be a part of this journey and support the club’s venture, may contact: Nithila Ariyapperuma on 072 146 1119, Tihara Jayawickrama on 076 919 2259 or Yasiru Jayatissa on 071 687 7729.

Photo Captions:

Spreading awareness to the young girls of Badanagoda Junior school,  Aluthgama.
Educating not just the girls but the boys as well, to help break the stigma.

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