It’s been a week and Aurat March is already the most controversial event of 2019. A number of pictures from the march have taken the internet by storm and every Tom, DICK(Pic?) and Harry is presenting their two cents on the posters. Let’s not forget the character assassination, abuse, slurs and rape threats women who participated in the march have been exposed to.
My picture was one of those photos that became widely circulated after the march
When I heard of Aurat March and read its manifesto that demands for the right to autonomy and decision-making over our bodies and for equal access to quality reproductive and sexual health services for women, all gender and sexual minorities, I knew it was the best opportunity to raise awareness and normalize one of the most important occurrences in every girl and woman’s life… menstruation.
Yes, I said it – MENSTRUATION!
Menstruation has been one of the most tabooed and stigmatized subjects, not only in Pakistan but all over the world.
Being the co-founder of HER Pakistan, a social initiative that empowers and educates women about menstruation, I am well aware of the resistance that one has to face when they raise their voice about such a tabooed topic.
Even in 2019, women are still ostracized to dark and secluded places when they are on their period. No, I am not talking about Chaupadis in Nepal. I am talking about our very own Pakistan. Women in Kalash Valley and many other unheard communities are still shunned when they are menstruating.
The shame and stigma attached to these words makes me sick. The disgust attached to the natural phenomenon and the treatment toward a menstruating woman is infuriating.
The shame associated with menstruation leads to silence around the topic.
Mothers are too shy to inform their adolescent daughters about the expected arrival of menstruation. According to a SMS poll conducted by UNICEF in 2017, 49% Pakistani girls did not know anything about menstruation before they started their period.
The lack of awareness and accessibility to hygienic menstrual practices and products leads to numerous infections (Reproductive Tract and Sexually Transmitted Infection, for instance) and other irreversible damage. Real Medicine Foundation revealed that 79% of Pakistani women do not manage their period in a hygienic way. In most parts of Pakistan, girls drop out of school when they start menstruating because they don’t have the means to manage their period blood. Around 29% girls and women miss out on school and work when they are on their period, revealed UNICEF in 2017.
During the Aurat March 2019, I marched for menstruation, to normalize it, to remove the taboo
I marched to claim my right to a healthy period, to raise my voice for affordable sanitary products, to create a safe space for many other girls and women who weren’t there and who have a right to menstruate in peace.
I wasn’t the only one who was concerned about the reproductive rights of women. My heart was full of joy to see many others who raised their voice for menstrual health rights.
Despite the taboo attached to menstruation, many celebrities also came forward to show their support to our cause.
— adnanmalik (@adnanmalik) March 8, 2019
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Nimra Bucha stands up for access to affordable sanitary products. Menstrual health is a basic human right. @auratmarch2019 #auratazadimarch2019 #Auratmarch #Auratazadimarch #IWD2019 #IWD #internationalwomensday #balanceforbetter #freetheperiod @dawn_dot_com @mangobaaz @cutacutofficial
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@mira.sethi was one of the most active participants at @auratmarch2019 Let's make Pakistan a period friendly space for all the menstruators! #auratmarch2019 #AuratMarchKarachi #Auratazadimarch #IWD2019 #IWD #internationalwomensday #balanceforbetter #freeperiod @mangobaaz @cutacutofficial @dawn_dot_com
Unfortunately, there were some influential figures who labelled menstrual health as “personal hygiene” and the posters were called disrespectful.
I don't want to be a man.#auratmarch #womenempowerment #feminism #poet #writer #director #actor #yasrarizvi
Hate and negativity has been pouring in for me and for every woman who marched for her right but what makes me happy is that people are talking
They are talking about menstruation and dick pictures and dowry and domestic violence.
@mshaanshahid this is not how "respect" works. If you don't respect all women, you respect no women. @AuratMarch2019 @HERPakistan @mangobaaz #AuratMarch2019 #AuratMarch #respectforall #menstruationmatters pic.twitter.com/eOwRVqGjAd
— Sana Lokhandwala (@SanaLokhandwala) March 12, 2019
This is not about you or the many men and women who are uncomfortable or angry about the poster or about the Aurat March as a whole. This is for millions of Pakistani girls who have the right to menstruate with confidence and dignity.
Imagine a place where girls don’t have to drop out of school when they start menstruating, where a mom doesn’t have to choose between buying bread for her child and buying a sanitary napkin for herself, where girls don’t have to wrap their pad packs in a brown paper like it is something illegal, where a girl doesn’t have to pretend she is fasting in order to avoid questions from her father and brother or to answer her male friends why she is not praying, where girls don’t have to slide a pad or a tampon up their sleeves while walking down to the loo, where girls are not equipped with baseless myths about menstruation, a world where women and girls can menstruate with dignity, confidence and without being judged.
That’s what a period friendly Pakistan will look like and this is what I marched for… and so should you.
Here’s How Much Money An Average Pakistani Woman Has To Spend In “Taking Care” Of Her Periods In Her Whole Life
Cover image via: @herpakistan / Instagram