About Paint It Red
Paint it Red aims to educate, engage, and empower communities to eliminate stereotypes around periods, creating a space for menstrual rights and reduce period poverty. The organization believes in creating radical changes in the narrative and accessibility to sustainable resources for menstruation. The completely normal practice of menstruation has often been sidestepped or ignored due to the taboo placed on it by Indian culture. What little information is provided is often always construed in narratives of pollution and uncleanliness creating shame among womxn and girls.
India has the second-largest population in the world, a census report of 2011 recorded 330 million womxn and girls who menstruate but only 36% of this number has access to hygienic and safe products for menstruation including sanitary napkins. The remaining 64% use traditional methods which include the use of hay, sand, ash, and rags among many which cause an increased risk of infection, cervical cancer and reproductive issues.
The organization centers its activities to promote menstrual rights and address the existing lacunae in proper menstruation facilities accessed by womxn in India. It aims to educate, empower, and engage womxn to reduce the misinformation prevalent about menstruation. The organization believes menstruation to be a fundamental human right that should be accorded to every woman and girl.
Paint It Red began with the passionate commitment of two womxn who have channelled their energy in addressing gender disparity. Menstruation and its consequent needs have been a topic largely kept under wraps in Indian society. There remains a large and persistent gap between access to resources and information regarding menstruation by womxn in India.
Ananya Chaucharia and Nargis Khan realised what was a minor inconvenience to them was a hard-lived reality for the majority of womxn in Indian society. Their vision is to create a sustained space which includes educating, empowering and engaging womxn in Indian society, especially marginalised and economically vulnerable sections, concerning menstruation. Ananya has been a political consultant while Nargis has worked extensively with NGOs.
The founders of Paint It Red are ardent advocates of menstrual rights in India. Improper information and lack of accessibility to menstrual products remain some of the most pertinent issues that womxn still face. These issues impact womxn on a physical and fundamental level. Ananya and Nargis believe that concrete policy changes, education, and empowerment through constant engagement, to reduce the stigma and health problems that the lack of menstrual resources possess for womxn and girls, is the need of the hour.
Ananya: Ananya graduated from Loreto College, Kolkata with a degree in Political Science. She has worked as a political consultant, campaign strategist and as an Operation Manager for Citizens for Public Leadership, Mumbai. She is an intersectional feminist working at the crossroads of gender and politics. She co-founded Paint It Red with Nargis to address issues relating to menstrual hygiene in India. Her vision is to engage and empower people through education to eradicate the stigmas associated with menstruation in India. Ananya is an MPP candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Nargis: Nargis is a graduate of Loreto College, Kolkata. Her degree in Political Science helped her engage extensively with the non-governmental sector. While working NGO’s Nargis realized that our society required urgent and substantial social changes. She joined forces with Ananya while pursuing her Master’s in Public Relations to establish Paint It Red. She is a strong believer in the power of communication and negotiation to bring about effective social change which is the need of the hour.
Menstruation remains a taboo subject in Indian society even today. A significant number of girls are not even aware of menstruation till they have their first period. The aura of taboo and shame surrounding menstruation makes it a sensitive topic to address. The consequence of this silence around menstruation leads to severe social anxiety and health complications for menstruating girls and womxn across the country.
Menstruation is a natural phenomenon. The needs associated with menstruation are severely undermined in Indian society. Lack of infrastructure, inadequate education and awareness, and insufficient access to menstrual products make menstruation a nightmare for some. Access to proper menstrual management is a basic human right to live one’s life with dignity and honor.
Menstrual Hygiene Management is not simply a woman’s issue. Its repercussions are multi-sectoral and require an integrated approach to holistic development. This includes the development and sound implementation of facilities in the Departments of Education, Health and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH).
In India, quantitative Data regarding the problems and discrepancies with Menstrual Hygiene Management is inadequate. 355 million menstruating womxn and girls have been recorded in India, out of which only 30% had heard of menstruation before beginning their period. 70% of the menstruating population in India cannot afford sanitary napkins and thus, resort to the use of unsafe methods while they menstruate.
Inadequate menstrual management is not limited to only health issues but 60% of girls reportedly miss school on account of menstruation which hampers their education leading to long-term complications. 1 out of 5 girls in rural India drop out of school when they start menstruating because of cultural factors that range from shame, stigma, and categorization of menstruating girls as impure. As much as 40% of government schools have reported the lack of sufficient bathrooms to allow girls a safe space to practice menstrual hygiene.
The divide is starker when comparing urban and rural areas where only 2-3% of the rural population uses sanitary napkins preferring cloth and other traditional methods.
Improper menstrual management is symptomatic of the larger gender inequality that characterizes India. MHM does not receive considerable attention because issues that are seen to be related to girls and womxn are secondary without any real significance.
There has been a recent initiative by the government to address menstrual management in India which include the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) which addresses sanitation issues in the country by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. The Ministry of Human Resource Development introduced the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) and the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RSM) which prioritizes menstrual education. The SABLA program introduced by the Ministry of womxn and Child Development also vows to focus on MHM awareness.