By: Meena R Prashant
Our belief strongly finds its root in people’s ignorance. The major portion of the population has been ignorant towards various societal issues. However, the cause of their ignorance is not their willingness to be so but the failure of our education system. Eager to make the citizens think rationally and make them the agents of change and create a society that is free from any form of issues, Nishant Bangera (26) and his friend, Amritha Mohan (25) founded ‘Muse Foundation’ a not for profit based in Mumbai.
Working with five volunteers, they launched campaigns that dealt with various civic issues. While conducting activities, Nishant came to know of a school in a village called Nareshwadi, Dahanu that did not have constant access to safe and hygienic menstrual products. “Some of the volunteers brought the incident to my notice while we were discussing a charity event. I personally imagined it to be the failure of the system that could not help vulnerable girls and women in need,” says Nishant.
In 2014, they started off with their menstrual programme called ‘A Period of Sharing’ (POS) under which they collected and donated sanitary napkins to Nareshwadi, Dahanu.
“While starting off POS, I discovered a lot of discomfort among many people including my family. From colleagues calling me weird and trying to rubbish off the matter, to my parents who were royally embarrassed for me taking up the menstrual cause, they all felt I have been bitten by a mad bug until they saw the change that POS brought about,” recalls Nishant.
Gradually Nishant realized that menstruation was one cause which has been loosely worked upon making half of the world population that menstruates, a victim. “While we saw hundreds of women have no access to menstrual hygienic products, there was also very little scientific knowledge of what menstruation actually is,” says Mohan.
Soon ‘Muse Foundation’ started organizing ‘Maasika Mahotsav’, a festival where people come together irrespective of their gender, caste and class to celebrate a natural phenomenon – menstruation. “Through this we aim to gradually eliminate the taboos regarding menstruation,” says Mohan.
The festival begins on May 21 and culminates on May 28, the World Menstrual Hygiene Day. The first Mahotsav was held in 2017 and included different events such as cloth pad–making workshop, sessions promoting menstrual hygiene and introduction to sustainable solutions, film screenings, a short film competition, open mic and street art. These events were organized in Ahmedabad, Champawat, Dang District, Valsad, Western Mumbai and Thane by different partner organizations.
Says Mohan, “through Maasika Mahotsav we aim to encourage and motivate people to step out of their cocoon and embrace menstruation”.
For 2018, there is a plan to organize a Women’s Football tournament by the name ‘Kick the Taboo’ along with Muheem (Uttar Pradesh); Sustainable Menstruation Collective Tamil Nadu; DLRP Chai Project (Kolkata and Sikkim) and OoWomaniya (Gujarat). In addition, there will be educational sessions on menstruation, poetry writing and cultural programme across different states including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Kolkata, Sikkim and Tamil Nadu.
Changing the attitude
Maasika Mahotsav’s basic philosophy is ‘to break free’ and targets every menstruating lady aged between 15 to 50. “We want the women to come out of their comfort zone, shout, dance and sing about menstruation. Muse is doing exactly that. We aim to take the festival to every state in India and eventually make it the national festival of the country,” says Nishant who strongly believes that if taboos are to be eliminated, “we need to have a dialogue, and for a dialogue, we need to come together as individuals and communities.” They visualize themselves as facilitators for the same.
So far the group has reached out to more than 2000 women through their sessions and festival mainly in Maharashtra.
The team aims to reach out to every woman with the right and scientific knowledge about menstruation. “We also aim to liaise with government officials to ask for better methods to deal with disposable sanitary napkins in terms of its waste and also their effect on women’s health. We are focusing on more research and propagate sustainable methods of handling periods which are cloth pads and menstrual cups,” says Nishant.
“The literature that we read and study since our younger days has been only making us employable humans. We are trying to break this cycle by instilling rational and critical thinking among youth,” he adds.
Founders : Nishant Bangera, Amritha Mohan (Co-founder)