Growing up as a girl in India, I was made to believe that I should STFU when it comes to my period. So while it’s bad enough that I had to endure the pinching cramps and snappy mood swings, I also had to deal with my pharmacist, who concealed the sanitary napkins in newspapers, and my family members, who would ask me to keep it on the down low during a religious event. And while my agnostic ass happily uses this low-key stigma to escape any customary temple time, for many women in India, life literally comes to a halt because of deep-seated taboos associated with the subject. The silent treatment is so fierce that even the popular sanitary pad brand is called Whisper.
Even though the issue has gained awareness through Oscar-winning documentaries, and the nasty Nepali practice of Chhaupadi that sentences a woman on her period to stay in a hut has been banned, the stigma is still in full flow.
So, bringing some relief to this tense situation is India’s very own period festival, which is back for the third time in India. Maasika Mahotsav is a festival that celebrates menstruation and all those who endure it. It will be held from May 21 to 28. The festival will also be celebrated in the neighbouring country of Nepal for the first time this year. The event is part of the ‘A Period of Sharing’ project, led by Nishant Bangera and Amritha Mohan, founders of the Mumbai-based Muse Foundation. The point is to encourage open conversation on the forbidden foe and make it a friend.
“Be it the menstruating woman in Tamil Nadu who lost her life to Cyclone Gaja, after she was forced to stay outside her home, or the age-old tradition of Chhaupadi, there is indeed a lot to achieve before we claim the world to be taboo-free. We at ‘A Period of Sharing’ are aiming to achieve just that, a taboo-free world,” Bangera told The Times of India (TOI).
The festival has partnered with NGOs like Hope of Life in Nepal and others in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam and Sikkim, and is currently in talks with some in Kerala. Each of the events will be tailor-made according to the cities it is hosted in, and will mostly include workshops on art, dance and music, all of which will be displayed on the final day.
Pranav Trivedi, a volunteer at ‘A Period of Sharing’, also told TOI, “In Mumbai, participants can look forward to a comedy play that will bust myths about period, and will also create awareness about sustainable menstruation. Tribals from Aarey forest will be actively involved, who will perform the tarpa dance. There will also be a cycling event and a women’s football tournament on the cards.”
In Uttar Pradesh, the women will take to the streets to demand freedom to speak up about their period and the need for it to be normalised, while in Sikkim, the participants will have conversations on menstrual cycles in cafe circles. Darjeeling will be doing a marathon awareness drive, while Madhya Pradesh is going to be playing games (and not the kind that fuckboys do).
The event is open to all—including men and transgender—and its objective is to help women in India and Nepal break free from the notion that just because they bleed doesn’t mean they aren’t fit enough to lead.
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This article originally appeared on VICE IN.