Did you feel a sense of awkwardness and shyness when you heard this word? Did you whisper it in your friend’s ear when you got it? Did you feel uncomfortable sharing about your periods with your male peers? Or did you hide your pads under your sweatshirt while running to the restroom? The little girls and women in the Hapur District felt the same when they were asked these questions.
Source – Netflix
HDI Gender Inequality Index of India
Menstruation is a constant barrier to women and girls while accomplishing and achieving their goals. Evidence indicates that India ranked 125 out of 151 countries in the HDI Gender Inequality Index. This just shows how far India is from attaining equal health, education, and work participation conditions for women. Hence, menstruation is a challenge for gender equality in rural India.
Menstruation’s Social Impact
Menstruation prevents little girls and women from working, educating themselves, cooking and performing daily household chores. They are forced to stay at home in a separate room. They are not allowed to visit temples or step out of their homes in rural India, which Sneha, one of the rural women in Hapur, completely detests. Sneha believes that God is a woman. Amen.
Sneha also believes that one day the village will be remembered by her name. Her determination, confidence, and belief in herself to change things around her are what keeps her going. A woman should not have to fight for her rights- it should be given freely and every woman should be entitled to it; regardless, of their social, political, and economic conditions.
Social Norms in Rural India
Social taboos and cultural norms are the major barriers to not having an open tete-a-tete about periods. Little girls must deal with anxiety, shame and embarrassment while discussing periods with their male peers and male figures in their lives. Formal, informal institutions and societies usually tend to avoid talking about periods with their children, students, peers, and acquaintances. Lack of knowledge plus superstitions also plays a wide role in forming rural opinions about periods. “It is bad blood and babies are born out of it.” is the statement that baffles me!
Credibility of Women
Women are neither respected nor given enough credit for what they can achieve. The social and economic conditions of the rural village also compel them to survive in unhygienic conditions, where the dogs- Ruby and Jackie just chew off the clothes.
Women and girls are left to fend for themselves, by using clothes that are available at their disposal. Patriarchy is also very visible when the women are forced to follow the orders of the men.
The man provides for the family while the woman is held responsible to look after the children and perform the household chores. The power of rural women is also shown throughout the documentary, where they come together to make sanitary pads. The business acumen, creativity, and marketing skills of women can be seen, while they try to sell sanitary napkins. However, they are held back by the standards, and rules set by society. The women must prove themselves to be worthy of a man’s love and respect.
Source – glamour magazine
Hapur’s Social Norms
“It’s me vs. the entire village” emphasizes Sneha’s need to show her worth in society. She also cites another girl from the village who has cleared her physical examination to become a Delhi Police. Sneha thinks that she could have gotten married and nobody would have known her today, just like the rest of the girls. Now, the whole village knows her by her name.
India revolves around God and spirituality. “What is the reason for bleeding?” one of the women asks. “Only God is aware.” This depicts the state of reality and perception of periods in the rural areas. Moreover, they strongly believe that prayers are not heard when one is on a period. On the contrary, goddesses are women.
They also describe sanitary pads as something they have seen on television. They laugh and say that if we wear them, we will be fine wherever we go. This just shows how unattainable they think sanitary pads are. Their naiveness and innocence can be seen through the girls and women. They are also embarrassed about wearing the clothes. Using a sanitary pad seems to be a huge achievement for them. For us, it is a normal commodity to use.
Sneha hid the fact that she was working because she would be asked what she was doing, and where she was working. To avoid these questions, she decided not to bring them up. Women are torn apart and hidden. Women were hesitant to discuss the happenings in the pad-making room. Although, some men knew- they just could not say it. The rural society lives in denial of the harsh reality.
Period. End of Sentence. – periods are treated as a death sentence for women. It is impactful, figurative, and metaphorical. If women are given opportunities, they grab them without a doubt in their minds. They are quick on their feet, eager to learn and broaden their horizons.
The initiative they took to learn and initially start with the process of making the sanitary pads just shows their smartness to achieve anything that they set their minds to.
Their idea of producing a meaningful name for the pad- Fly, setting up a price, comparing an average pad with a Fly pad, persuading one to choose quality over beauty, applying tactful marketing strategies to make sure that more pads are sold by keeping them with women, and going to as many stores and homes as possible to make sure that the Fly pad is in every hand of the village is just commendable.
Social Norms in Urban Cities
Women are also hesitant to buy pads from the stores; since, there are men around in rural areas. The medical stores still wrap the pads with newspapers when selling them in urban cities. There is still a long way for urban society to progress. We cannot expect rural society to change overnight. Things are changing slowly.
The pad machine was started by a man- Arunachalam Muruganantham. If it were started by women, it would not be accepted in society. Women empowerment can also be seen behind the name-Fly. The pad is of the women, for the women and made by the women. Women are made to succeed and rise to greatness. Women’s organization and professional skills are also impeccable with them setting up the “pad” room with a timetable and a data entry. Women are also empathetic when they are willing to sell the pads without any return in profits.
The economic and social conditions of a village can be seen throughout the documentary. The major problem of villages is electricity. They survive without electricity for days. It is also unsafe for women to work during the night. They have broken all the barriers to produce 18,000 pads from the machine. The “pad” room has become a home to the villagers. The atmosphere is relaxed and they have a good laugh while working together.
Source – unwomen
Women are the base of society. They do not know how much power they hold. They are bold and fierce; just like Sneha. The world cannot go ahead without women. We are the strongest creatures created by God in the world- “it is not the lion, not the elephant, IT IS THE GIRL!”
Piece of Advice
Effective legislations and inclusive-diverse public policies should be implemented to pave a way for women. Rural development should be given priority. Education systems should be tweaked and parents should be encouraged to have conversations on menstruation with their children. When a girl gets their first period, it should be celebrated and not belittled. Periods are a time to celebrate being a woman. Ideologies need to change and rural India needs to adapt to the dynamic-evolving society.
Words of Wisdom
As Michelle Obama said, “There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.” When women are given equal opportunities, women can do wonders. Sneha believes that 5 years from now, she will have lots of money, and fulfill her parent’s dreams of becoming a police officer. “When I’m in Delhi and need pads, I’ll be able to locate Fly pads in every store“, she fantasizes.
Written by- Kushi Mayur
Edited by- Isha Mehrotra
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