International Women’s Day: Project Pavitra dispelling myths, taboos, shame around menstruation

ST Correspondent
Sunday, 8 March 2020

Art of Living’s Project Pavitra is empowering adolescent girls from underprivileged families

In a study conducted by the Art of Living across India, some stark facts about menstruation have come to light. Among those surveyed, around 66 pc girls are not aware of the menstrual cycle before they have their first periods. In all, 23 pc girls drop out of school after reaching puberty. Around 88 pc menstruating women use home-grown remedies such as old clothes, dry leaves, etc as sanitary pads. Girls remain absent for 20 pc of time from school due to menstruation. Around 70 pc mothers consider menstruation dirty.

Against this backdrop, the Bengaluru-based NGO led by spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar decided to introduce a positive change in the lives of adolescent girls from underprivileged families in the country. In 2018, the NGO launched Project Pavitra, a nationwide initiative for enhancing adolescent girls’ menstrual health and hygiene through complimentary sensitisation programmes. To mark the International Women’s Day, it has announced to observe the month of March as Women’s Health Month.

Project Pavitra aims to dispel myths, shame and taboos associated with the natural biological process. It promotes menstrual health and hygiene among adolescent girls. It has brought happiness in the lives of over 19,000 young girls till date by empowering them to embrace their womanhood. Workshops are conducted under the project for adolescent girls to educate them on the menstrual cycle. It imparts scientific information on menstruation and related hygiene, safe sanitary care options and disposal. It inculcates healthy eating and physically active lifestyle, which play an important role in dealing with conditions such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOD). These girls get a sense of pride and confidence in being a woman after attending the workshop.

The programme has a unique feature, where yoga postures, breathing exercises and relaxation techniques are taught to reduce menstrual tension and pain. The training methodology is fun-filled consisting of games, story-telling and interactive sessions. The trainers holding these workshops are trained cost-effectively through the power of technology. Female volunteers become menstrual health and hygiene champions. Over 1,500 female volunteers have been trained till date to run complimentary workshops. 

Elaborating on the scope of the project in India, Art of Living’s Karuna Malhotra said, “Project Pavitra is being implemented in 24 states in the country. Girls from underprivileged sections, orphanages, children’s homes, women’s shelters, construction sites and prisons are being educated on menstruation health and hygiene.”  The NGO has trained 181 trainers in Maharashtra, including 96 in Pune and Satara areas. They have been working in Kalyani Nagar, Bavdhan, Modi Ganpati Mandir area, Appa Balwant Chowk, Narayangaon, Moshi and Manchar. Sunil Poddar, Vandana Jain and Dr Trusha are arranging these workshops in and around Pune. Training of Trainers (TOT) is conducted by master trainer Kumkum Naren, who also heads Art of Living Bureau of Communication for Pune. These training sessions are assisted by Ashwini Shete.

Around 400 adolescent girls from Satara area have benefited from the workshop while over 3,000 more from Manchar, Narayangaon, Pune and Beed are being educated currently. 

Speaking about the project, Naren said, “Why only March 8? Why not each day, each hour, every minute... Let’s come together to make our days and life… I am now looking forward to training over 2,000 women in Maharashtra.”

Speaking about the workshop, Vedantika Mane from the Panchkroshi Shikshan Mandal’s girls’ school, Rahimatpur,  said, “We learnt many things about the menstrual cycle, which no one around us had told us before. Now, we practise yogic and breathing exercises. We know how to maintain hygiene, which has been taught to us in the 3-day workshop.”

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