This week for The Leak Radha and Samir share with us their campaign to promote menstrual dignity and girls’ human rights through social media by using the practice of mehendi (henna) as a transformative strategy in Nepal and beyond.
Menstruation is biology and menstrual discrimination is a form of sexual and gender based violence, and an abuse of human rights. Gift For Girls (GFG), a youth lead campaign in Sunwal, in the Lumbini province of Nepal, has been working in partnership with the Radha Paudel Foundation (RPF), a secretariat of Global South Coalition for Dignified Menstruation (GSCDM). GFG is a youth based organization working for advocating dignified menstruation through mobilising child clubs and its members, marking the local, national and international days.
Dignified Menstruation is a comprehensive approach to address complex and multifaceted menstrual discrimination. Therefore, we have been trying to raise awareness through sports, celebration of menarche, and birthday, religious and cultural days, using social media. In this connection, GFG/RPF chose the mehendi (henna) for dignified menstruation for celebrate Shrawan month (July 15-August 15), a month of mehendi.
Due to the COVID pandemic, the discussion took place virtually. Then, very a small number of friends who could gathered along with their siblings and made various types of arts and slogans. They used a smart phone to take photographs and uploaded these to Facebook and Instagram. Once on social media, the members of youth organisations from other parts of Nepal joined in, e.g. Udayapur started to follow and shared via social media by tagging us.
Shrawan month is an important time for Nepali people; some celebrate only for the first day of it, some celebrate for a month, some celebrate for weddings, and some ignore it altogether.
We decided, given it’s diverse use, that we could use the practice of mehendi as a transformative strategy to promote dignified menstruation. This allows girls and boys, and everyone else, to connect the brain and uterus and cherish the essence of menstruation for them and for this planet. Due to the creativity and enjoyment of the practice of mehendi, this offers the benefit of connection and bonding which are important for dismantling the taboos, myths, restrictions, shyness, silence and isolation of menstrual discrimination in Nepal. Since this campaign is being promoted through social media (and going viral!) the message is reaching so many people who can enjoy it and benefit.
Once we started the campaign by disseminating the photos of mehendi, with information or slogans about dignified menstruation, we received overwhelmingly positive feedback from friends across the networks. Other clubs and groups for children and youth in Nepal started to like, share and tag us. Usually, the information related was about ‘dignified menstruation’, ‘Gift for Girls’, ‘Menstrual Talk, ‘Dignity First’, `Menstrual Health’, `girl empowerment’ and so on. We strongly believed that Mehendi is not only a ritual for fashion but also the tool for transform the menstrual discrimination. We would continue to amplify the voice of menstrual dignity and justice in coming days as well as an opportunity.
Thank you to Radha and Samir for sharing with us another menstrual campaign going on around the world! Radha’s previous piece on The Leak is here.
Radha Paudel, is a nurse, author, educator and activist. She is a pioneer of dignity during menstruation who has challenged menstrual discrimination since childhood. She is the Founder of the Global South Coalition for Dignified Menstruation. Radha has received national and international awards for her work and books.
Samir has been working on sanitation and dignified menstruation for a combination of 4 years, having previously worked on children rights through the Red Cross.