‘Break the Silence, Pedal for the Change’

Priya Kumari, currently on a cycling campaign on menstrual health and hygiene in North-East states reached Kohima on April 9.

Priya Kumari, currently on a cycling campaign on menstrual health and hygiene in North-East states reached Kohima on April 9.

Cycling campaign on menstrual health and hygiene reaches Nagaland 

Morung Express News
Kohima | April 9

With menstruation still considered 'impure and dirty' in many parts of rural India, where menstruating girls and women are subjected to restrictions in their daily lives, a young woman from India has been on a cycling campaign promoting awareness on menstrual health and hygiene.

Twenty-seven-year-old Priya Kumari, Rani Laxmi Bai Awardee from Uttar Pradesh, a mountaineer and Fit India Brand Ambassador, along with Pradeep Kumar, a traveler, have reached the capital, Kohima, this evening.

The cycling campaign under the theme ‘Break the Silence, Pedal for the Change’ was flagged off by the Govenor of Sikkim, Lakhsman Prasad Acharya on February 18 at Raj Bhawan.

The cyclists have travelled to Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland with their next destination to Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya. Sponsored by Goonj, an NGO they will be covering the entire Seven Sisters state and one brother state of North-East India.

‘God-gifted natural bodily process’
In a conversation with The Morung Express, Kumari said that stigma and isolation she faced has inspired her to raise awareness on menstrual health, still considered a ‘taboo’ topic for discussion in many parts of India.

‘From where I come from, it’s a dream for girls to come out of their homes, forget about education. Girls are married off at an early age” she shared.

While describing menstruation is a god-gifted natural bodily process, she noted the myths and misconception surrounding menstruation, especially in India leads to social isolation and exclusion during menstruation.

Sharing some real life incidences, Kumari said from where she comes from girls are barred to wash their hairs for 3-4 days while in some rural areas girls and women are banned to enter the kitchen, touch food, enter temple, made to sleep on the floor and some are even made to sleepover in some other places during their ‘period days’.

She also mentioned a custom wherein menstruating girls and women are forced to fast the entire days of their period drinking only water.

Besides, Kumari said that talking and discussing about menstruation is a taboo in many homes where girls and women are compelled to silently bear the brunt owing to misconceptions and carrying on the age-old traditions of isolation.
With all these things still happening today, Kumari said this is somehow impacting the health of girls and women ‘mentally and physically.’

She emphasised on the importance of creating awareness on menstrual health and hygiene, particularly in the rural areas, and this, she stated educated girls and women must take the lead.

Women, Kumari maintained must/should talk openly about menstruation as there is nothing to be ashamed of as it a unique natural phenomenon gifted by God.

Changing social attitudes and promoting accurate information are an integral aspect of menstrual awareness which can break the silence, help eliminate shame and discrimination and promote menstrual health and well being, she emphasised.

Sex education a must
Another critical issue, she pointed was on sex education for both boys and girls at homes and schools as well.

Expressing grave concerns on the high rate of reported cases sexual crimes in India, Kumari said many girls and women are afraid to come out of their homes while many do not feel safe in their own homes.

She viewed that sex education will play a crucial role in preventing rape incidences by equipping both girls and boys with knowledge about their bodies, consent and health sexual behaviours.

Stressing on the need to include sex education in the school syllabus, Kumari called on the collaborative efforts of the government, educational institutions, society and individuals to create a safer place for girls and women in India.

North East experience so far
The North-East, Kumari said enthusiastically, has become one of her favourite destination adding that she is beginning to love everything about this region.

“I was cautioned about coming to this region, but I haven’t encountered anything as such,” she said, adding that the people of the states they have visited so far have been so welcoming and helpful.

Nagaland, she said is her most loved states as according to her, the people are so cordial, civilised, well-mannered and educated.

When asked about the challenges that she has faced on her campaign, Kumari, a vegetarian, said it is mostly the food habit.

Meanwhile, in Kohima an awareness campaign programme was held at Vineyard Girls’ Hostel wherein she explained on how to wash and dry reusable menstrual products, maintain utmost hygiene and handle waste properly.

She expressed her happiness to observe there are no such restrictions and taboos associated with menstruation, and that women in Nagaland enjoy better status than in most parts of the states in the country.

Kumari said her next target is climbing Mt Everest, Mt  Makalu and Mt Lhotse in 2025. 

The cyclists are also creating awareness on women tourism stating that women shouldn’t be confined to their homes but go and explore the world, which they stated is the best form of education.