The whole process of abnormalising menstruation, a natural process, is not new. Things are changing gradually in the urban areas; the privileged have started to talk about it and we see advertisements of sanitary napkins in television. However, the scenario is quite opposite in the rural areas of Bangladesh.
Menstruation is considered many things other than a natural process in the underdeveloped areas. While talking about menstruation to the adolescent girls of Kushtia, Project Konna, an initiative to raise awareness regarding menstruation in rural areas, gets numerous astounding replies.
For example, Rafia Khatun, an eleven year old girl, who still has not gotten her period, thinks menstruation is a curse. Her family members have not yet informed her about it. She knows about period, from a book she once borrowed, from one of her cousins. The story of Eve eating the forbidden fruit and then getting her period intrigues her. Rafia then comes to the conclusion that women get menstruation as a form of punishment.
There are plenty examples of such. Few young girls even think it is a form of disease. One of them says, “People often tend to use the term Shorir Kharap. Hence, it must be a disease.” People are ashamed of using the word menstruation and it is not surprising that these girls do not feel comfortable talking about it.
Whereas some girls get help from their families, especially from their mothers, some still believe in the myths that are taught to them by the elders. In school classrooms of these villages, teachers hardly read out the chapters on menstruation from the book. These chapters are told to be read at their homes.
When institutions are not making them aware of the topic, when family members do not inform the girls until they have their period, when they come across such topic elsewhere (like Rafia did), they get a completely wrong idea about the subject. Through proper education in the text books and through ensuring that teachers teach them in the classrooms, we may be able to change the scenario gradually.
In order to raise such awareness, we must get out of Dhaka because rural areas need them more.