Women Activists Challenging Period Taboos in Pakistan.
Facing threats and alienation, women push for menstrual awareness in a country where women’s health taboos limit rights.
By Rachel “Sink” Lindsay
Last year, more than 33 million people in Pakistan were affected by record-breaking torrential rain and flash floods, leaving 8.2 million women of reproductive age to manage their menstrual needs without support.
Source: Reliefweb International
A Brave New Alliance.
Anum Khalid, a 24-year-old architectural engineering student in Multan, posted on Facebook asking for help in gathering relief supplies. Soon after, she received a reply from Bushra Mahnoor, 22, a psychology student in Lahore. Despite never meeting, the two began working together.
After speaking with women in affected areas, Bushra and Anum learned that they were using whatever they could find for menstrual supplies: sand, dried leaves, cow dung, and cloth. Those in standing water conditions had nowhere to wash or dry their period cloths. One mother in Lasbela even said that her daughters shared the same rag.
Mahwari Justice & Sexist Setbacks.
Bushra and Anum formed an aid group called Mahwari Justice (“mahwari” means menstruation in Urdu), delivering menstrual supply kits to women in Sindh and Balochistan. Despite receiving help from community members, they were rejected by the majority of men they contacted for support.
Shame and lack of education around the subject of periods remains prevalent in Pakistan. One Urdu word for “vagina”––”sharamgah”––even translates to “a place of shame.”
Other Women Joining The Fight.
Fortunately, progress continues. In 2018, Sana Lokhandwala formed HER Pakistan, an organization working to increase menstrual awareness among women in impoverished neighborhoods. Meanwhile, femtech entrepreneur Saba Khalid developed Raaji, a chatbot that answers questions about periods.
“It’s about the female body. We don’t want to allow conversations about women’s bodies or what they need.”
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