“WeCan” by the Rotaract Club of IIT “Bright girls are bold and confident. They’re not ashamed or scared of their period or their body.” – Demi Spaccavento

The Rotaract Club of Informatics Institute of Technology (RACIIT) is recognized for its initiatives aligned with Rotary International’s 7 focus areas and the UN’s 17 SDG goals. “WeCan” is a project by RACIIT to raise awareness about menstrual health and hygiene, which earned the club the Bronze award at the 31st Rotaract District Assembly and the Gold award at the 32nd Rotaract District Assembly. 

In today’s society, the topic of menstruation in general is considered taboo, it is spoken of in hushed tones and due to the stigmatizing of this topic many individuals are often left uneducated on information regarding menstruation. We like to consider ourselves part of an evolved society,  however, when it comes to menstruation and educating the youth on the subject, we fail to measure up to the standards of an evolved society. These gaps of information lead to further injustices occurring, such as the inability to supply proper sanitary products/ pad kits to the entirety of the female population.   

As mentioned above, the gaps of information regarding menstruation stem from the skittishness  of children, young adults and even matured adults alike to approach the subject. Children and  young adults being hesitant to speak freely on the matter is understandable, however, the fact  that even a majority of grown adults are somewhat afraid to speak aloud on menstruation is  somewhat bizarre. There may be certain reasons for this, but it is believed that it is mainly due to misinformation and/or lack of information on the subject. When people do not know about a subject it usually leads to people not speaking about a subject and/or completely ignoring the subject and speaking publicly with others about the subject for fear of  embarrassment. A terrible cycle emerges, the cycle being that lack of information leads to  ignorance which leads to further lack of information and so on the cycle continues. Another  reason that young girls in particular choose to stay away from the topic of menstruation is due  to the financial burdens of their parents. Everyone does not have the same access to proper  sanitary products, many parents find it difficult to provide the necessities for their families. Most  young girls often realize the frustration of financial burdens on their parents and fear frustrating  and burdening them further by asking them to purchase sanitary products. It truly is a sad state  of affairs. When considering the aforementioned problems, “WeCan” provides somewhat of a  solution.

The first two years, the club reached out to seven schools and made over 200 reusable pad kit donations, making a positive impact on the health and education of young women in their community.

This year, RACIIT is proud to have Momiji Naturals as its partner and receive sponsorship from Square Pharma and Sampath Bank. Digital Wire Global is also supporting the project as its digital PR partner. As the project “WeCan” progresses, 3 awareness sessions have been held in Matara and Kelaniya to date. These sessions were conducted by Ms. Nadeesha Paulis, a writer, journalist, and founder of Happy Bleeding. The sessions were attended by female and male students, as well as some parents. The attendees were taught about menstrual health and hygiene and how it is important to talk about periods openly because they are a normal occurrence and shouldn’t be considered taboo. The speakers  educated the audience on the fact that menstruation is a natural process and encouraged the  students to use words like “period”, which for some are considered embarrassing words, so they  would familiarize themselves with such language. The familiarization and use of this language in  the day-to-day lives of many of the students that were in attendance may go a long way in encouraging others to do the same and speak freely on matters regarding menstruation. Some of the other topics discussed were the importance of boys and men understanding menstruation and the role they must play in order to break the stigma surrounding the subject. Another topic addressed in the sessions were myths and urban legends surrounding  menstruation, one of those myths being the question “Can women shower while on their period?” The proper use of pad kits and maintaining hygienic practices were also discussed, furthermore, upon the conclusion of each session a certain amount of pad kits were donated.  

Reusable pads are an excellent option for women, providing numerous benefits over disposable pads. They are more comfortable, eco-friendly, and cost-effective in the long run. Disposable pads contain plastic and other harmful chemicals, making them an environmental hazard. They also contribute to the waste problem in the world.

The sessions also educated the male audience members on the burdens and pain women go through when on  their periods and ways in which boys could help ease the burden and help the women in their  lives. It’s essential for men to be informed about these issues because menstruation affects not just women but also the wider community. By having a better understanding of the subject, men can support the efforts to break the stigma and promote menstrual health and hygiene. 

The time is ripe to break the silence on the topic of menstruation in Sri Lanka. It is evident that  certain countries are taking the initiative and trying to evolve. The most recent example being  Scotland becoming the first country in the world to make period products free. It only takes one  match to start a fire and Scotland have announced to the world that they are that match. While  it is unlikely that rapid changes would take place in all countries in a short period of time, the  hope and belief is that it will happen to each country at their own pace and in their own time.

“WeCan” is an initiative that has the potential to benefit many young girls, boys and even society as  a whole with its continuous implementation. Menstruation is a natural part of life and we should treat the process as such by being able to speak freely and without fear on the subject. The change will start from the youth but it is essential to spread awareness to the current generation  of adults as well.

Photo Caption :

Ms Nadeesha’s awareness session at Kelani Maha Vidyalaya
WeCan session and donation completed at Kelani Maha Vidyalaya
Awareness session at Unella Jayanthi College
Pre session breathing and bonding exercises

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