Since she had her first period at age 12, Aditi Gupta was educated to keep the presence of her monthly cycle a secret — even from her family. “When girls [in India] get their periods, they may be thought impure for anyone seven days,” said Gupta. “That is the way I grew up, seeing myself as impure. That sense of shame was instilled in me from an extremely young age.”
According to a study for Menstrual Hygiene Day, one in three schoolgirls across South Asia were oblivious of exactly what a period was before experiencing it for the first time — and an estimated one in 5 schoolgirls in India finally drop of school due to problems brought on by menstruation and deficiency of toilets.
To help change that, Gupta established Menstrupedia, an organisation that seeks to boost “period positivity” by raising consciousness and knowledge about menstruation. Among their tools, such as a YouTube station as well as a Facebook page, is a very successful comic book, old and targeted at girls nine, that guides them through browsing their first period. The comic, featuring clear examples of female human body and storylines adapted from true to life encounters, has already been incorporated into 70 schools across India.
Span positivity and “Myth breaking are our strategies, and we wanted to help it become a comic book because it’s inclusive,” clarified Gupta. “We wanted to do it in a positive and matter-of-fact method to debunk misconceptions, and teachers and so that parents will not be uncomfortable using it. It can be read by girls and say ‘oh, this happened to me too!'”