World Voice: Indian Comic Book Breaks Stigma on Menstruation

World Voice: Indian Comic Book Breaks Stigma on Menstruation

 

Do you remember when you had your first period? Did you know what to do? Did you have someone to talk to about what menstruation was? In India, the idea of menstruation has been a taboo subject until one woman decided to tackle it head on.

Aditi Gupta had her first period when she was 12, but was told to keep it a secret. Why? In India, menstruation is seen as taboo and thought of as something that shouldn’t be discussed with anyone. The issue of menstruation has often created a stigma around it, especially in rural communities. With fear of being ostracized for something they can’t control, Gupta decided that there had to be a way to take away the shame and empower girls to speak about menstruation freely.

With the help of her husband Tuhin Paul, they created Menstrupedia in 2012, a website that outlines the physical and emotional changes that girls go through, during menstruation, as well as answering questions that girls wouldn’t ask anyone else for fear of retaliation.

While Menstrupedia was a good first step in learning about menstruation, it wasn’t enough to tackle the ongoing stigma that girls and women go through during their cycle. This stigma brings about isolation for millions of girls who don’t understand how to get past an age old tradition that shames them for being seen as impure. In order to bring more awareness of this issue, Gupta & Paul created a Menstrupedia comic book that considerably helps girls be more informed on it.

The comic book features four main characters who talk about menstruation when one of the characters gets her period.  Through dialogue and illustration of the female anatomy, the subject is explained in detail, ensuring that girls from ages nine and above can understand the information. In addition, the message they want to spread is one of inclusion, not shame.

My first encounter with menstruation at twelve was confusing and frustrating. I was away from home and when I realized that I was going through it, I had no clue what was going on with my body. My mother never prepared me for what to expect with regard to menstruation. I was on vacation at my aunt’s home and in midst of playing with my cousins when I started to feel some discharge staining my shorts. Horrified and scared because I had no idea why I was bleeding, I ran to the bathroom and from behind closed doors, was informed by my aunt that I was menstruating. I was never told by my mother about this radical change in my body and thought there was something wrong with me. Fortunately, my aunt made sure to educate me about menstruation and future bodily changes I would go through during puberty by telling me about her experience.

It was not uncommon for my mother to withhold information about menstruation, since menstrual hygiene was never discussed in her family, and especially in public. In addition, awareness of menstruation was not supported because it was seen as a “woman’s problem”.  

Education plays a big part in spreading awareness about this issue, but unfortunately, age-old traditions play just as big a part in how girls are perceived when they go through puberty. While traditions should be respected, it should never be at the cost of taking away a girl’s right to be educated about her body. Gupta’s comic book is a great way of educating girls in India on menstrual hygiene. In addition, it empowers them to take control over their bodies and not be shamed for what is happening to their physical well-being naturally.

To see the original article regarding this post, click here.

How is menstruation handled in your country?

Pic Credit: Wikimedia Commons 

Tes Silverman

Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.

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MADAGASCAR: Affected by addiction and raising children

Addiction

I’m the mommy of two boys. I’d love to have a girl, but I’m a bit afraid to give it a try because I’m not sure how to raise a girl. Malagasy women and girls face many challenges, and I’m not sure I’m equipped to teach a girl what to do in order to succeed, or just to survive.

I’m a woman now, but have been a girl too and I know that it’s not easy. I learned this at a very young age while I observed what happened at home. My father (may his soul rest in peace now) had a serious addiction to alcohol, and he used to beat my mother – a lot. My younger brother and I witnessed many fights and abuse. These scenes are printed in my mind forever, though I pretend I’ve forgotten them.

My father drank because he was not happy with his life. He was a skilled musician – he played classical guitar and traverse flute like a god – but he never shined as a recognized virtuoso. He didn’t make much money, and Mom had to work very hard to support our household. I think Dad didn’t like this. He felt emasculated. He felt miserable. Instead of trying to overcome his problems, he drank in order to forget them and took out his anger on my mom.

Violence is such a mystery to me. I was 10 when my parents divorced, and I already knew many things children shouldn’t have to know. My dad died two years after that. He most likely died while drunk. Someone got him to hospital where, because he was unconscious, he couldn’t tell the doctors that he was diabetic. They used inadequate medicines and he died. We only found out the day after. I went to see him at the hospital and when I stared into the empty bed where he was supposed to be, the nurse just told me “The guy who was there died this morning,” without any other comment. Well, okay… Something broke inside of me.

I will not share more details, because I want to spare my mom and my brother. But I will say that the three of us are all survivors of addiction – a silent war millions of people suffer around the world, every day. We all found different ways to overcome it. For me it is hard work and activism, with a particular focus on promoting and defending women’s rights. Adversity shapes our personality in ways we don’t expect. All we have to do is to find enough strength in our hardship in order to rise again.

Now, back to my boys. I would like to find a way to teach them how to respect girls and to grow up to be gentlemen, but I’m not sure I am getting it right. My mind is full of doubt. I’m not self-confident. Motherhood is an amazing, yet terrifying, adventure. Am I a good model for them? Should I tell them this horrible story of growing up affected by addiction, so that they can understand what I mean? How do we raise good boys and girls? I don’t have the answers but expect some from you, fellow mothers….

It feels good to share my story, sad though it may be. Writing is like therapy for me. Girls deserve better and everyone must do their part in order to improve the situation. Silence is not a solution. We have to stand against injustice at every opportunity. Whatever your fight is, and whoever you are, I m standing with you to say RESIST, HOLD ON, better days are ahead!

This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Ketakandriana Rafitoson, our new contributor from Madagascar.

Photo courtesy of David Goehring / Flickr.

JAPAN: For the Love of Girls

JAPAN: For the Love of Girls


Here in Japan, as the cold winter wind continues to blow, the school year is coming to a close. Even the smallest children are busy preparing for graduation from their various places of learning. It is a time of reflection for the mothers of Japan: look how much they have grown! It is also a time of of worry, of anxiety about what awaits our children in their next portion of their journey.

It hasn’t been a particularly good year for the rights of Japanese women. The Supreme Court recently ruled against a group of women petitioning for the right to continue use of their maiden names after marriage. Around the same time, the same court struck down a law that enforces a waiting period for women desiring to remarry after divorce, citing a lack of similar restrictions for men. Then in the same ruling, it suggested 100 days as a reasonable waiting period. (Huh?) A male parliamentarian applied for paternity leave, to the cheers of many younger women, only to be embroiled in an infidelity scandal and forced to resign shortly thereafter. “Maternity Harrassment” was listed as a trending term on TV programs celebrating the end of 2015.

Saying that I am full of anxiety and worry for what this country holds in store for my daughter would be an understatement.

But even in this midst of this still-winter, from the warm enclave of the kotatsu (a low table equipped with a heating unit and enveloped by a duvet,) I can see that outside plum blossoms are starting to bloom. Cherry blossoms will follow. There is warmth and life and hope awaiting us, if only we persevere a little longer.

Perhaps it is just coincidence that plum blossoms are a symbol of Girls Day as well.

Families across Japan will spend March 3 celebrating their love for their daughters. Gorgeous collections of delicate dolls representing the members of the ancient imperial court are being displayed as I write, the superstition being that should any disaster like fire or earthquake occur at your house, these dolls will take your daughter’s place. She will be spared.

Mothers and grandmothers will toil over chirashi zushi, a kind of sushi where the fish are “scattered” on top as opposed to rolled within. There will be crunchy, lightly sweetened snacks, traditional pounded rice cakes, and (especially for families with young daughters) perhaps even cake and pizza.

That this is an old tradition gives me hope. Even in the darkest days of a powerful patriarchy, parents have loved their daughters. Families have gathered, special dishes have been prepared, efforts have been made all for the love of girls.

In the midst of other more negative messages, this is a powerful one. I hope it gets through.

What kind of messages do you feel the traditions of your country send to young women? How would you like to change them, if you could?

Melanie Oda (Japan)

If you ask Melanie Oda where she is from, she will answer "Georgia." (Unless you ask her in Japanese. Then she will say "America.") It sounds nice, and it's a one-word answer, which is what most people expect. The truth is more complex. She moved around several small towns in the south growing up. Such is life when your father is a Southern Baptist preacher of the hellfire and brimstone variety. She came to Japan in 2000 as an assistant language teacher, and has never managed to leave. She currently resides in Yokohama, on the outskirts of Tokyo (but please don't tell anyone she described it that way! Citizens of Yokohama have a lot of pride). No one is more surprised to find her here, married to a Japanese man and with two bilingual children (aged four and seven), than herself. And possibly her mother. You can read more about her misadventures in Asia on her blog, HamakkoMommy.

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WORLD VOICE: Party #withMalala and National Geographic!

WORLD VOICE: Party #withMalala and National Geographic!

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 12.36.12 PMMy daughters and I are planning a very special party at my house. We’ve invited our neighbors over for a movie, popcorn, laughter…and even some tears, inspiration, and global activism!

On Monday, February 29, the National Geographic channel will show the commercial-free U.S. television premiere of He Named Me Malala at 8:00 pm ET/7:00 pm CT. He Named Me Malala is Davis Guggenheim’s acclaimed film that tells the story of the world’s youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner and girls’ education activist Malala Yousafzai.

This is such a perfect chance for us World Moms in the U.S. to gather together families and children in our communities for a night of awareness and action! We can learn about what education for means for girls in Pakistan and be inspired by an extraordinary young leader just in time to push our government for increased global education funding.

My girls, 10 and 12 years old, are fledgling activists for global education. Together, we have read the young reader’s edition of Malala’s autobiography, “I am Malala,” and thoroughly enjoyed it. Her voice as an activist who started speaking out against the Taliban at age 11 reaches my kids in a way they can completely relate to even though they have never visited Malala’s native Pakistan. The book was thought provoking and funny, yet nothing really compares to seeing and hearing the words of a young person coming from her own mouth.

We have invited friends to come see the movie with us – friends who have lived in the U.S. their whole lives as well as those who have moved here from India, Pakistan, and China. I asked some of our guests to share with us their personal experiences of what they have seen in their home countries when girls were not allowed to participate in classes due to gender bias or poverty.

In Malala’s acceptance speech for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, she said, “I tell my story not because it is unique, but because it is the story of many girls.”

Each of these stories is important to lift up and share.

I hope that we can come to a greater understanding of each other’s perspectives. The stories of why some of our friends have moved here are deeply rooted in a desire for education, opportunity, and equality. Our goal is to learn from Malala and each other, then write letters to our elected senators and representatives with these stories and ask for the U.S. to include $125 million for the Global Partnership for Education to cost-effectively support access to quality education for all children.IMG_4893

Our American leaders in power need to hear what the people they represent have gone through. Immigration stories are beautiful and part of the fabric of our local communities. They connect us to our global community and help us to understand our role in helping to promote gender equality, education, and health worldwide.

IMG_8941If you are living in the U.S., I encourage you to gather some friends and watch He Named Me Malala together. If you are out of the country, you may be able to purchase it on DVD to create your own watch party or read the Young Reader’s edition of “I Am Malala” as a book group with your kids. Read or watch, be inspired, and then share with us your ideas for helping all children achieve their dreams of education!

Will you be watching?

This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Anti-Poverty Mom Cindy Levin.

 

Cindy Levin

Cynthia Changyit Levin took her first advocacy action in 2001 with a hunger event at her church. Years later, after resigning from her position as an automotive engineer to raise her newborn daughter, she searched for a way she could better the world from home while caring for infants. She returned to advocacy and is now a dedicated volunteer activist with RESULTS, Shot@Life, ONE, and Bread for the World. Levin involves her young children in her advocacy activities, including face-to-face lobby meetings with members of Congress, letter-writing, and classroom advocacy projects. She shares what she has learned about advocacy through her Anti-Poverty Mom blog and training other activists with RESULTS. Her op-eds and letters-to-the-editor have appeared in Chicago area newspapers as well as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Washington Post, the New York Times and the international Financial Times. Levin has served on the Board of Directors for RESULTS/RESULTS Educational Fund and on staff with RESULTS Educational Fund as a fundraising coach for grassroots volunteers.

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USA:  Why READ?

USA: Why READ?

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As my youngest has started to work on learning to read and write in kindergarten, and my oldest lays on the couch for hours lost in a book, I’ve been reflecting about books and reading.  A book is so much more than just paper and ink and the binding that holds it together.  Books can be entertaining, but most importantly, they teach us new things and help us broaden our understanding of the world we live in.  It turns out reading books also does so much more, especially for our children.   (more…)

Eva Fannon (USA)

Eva Fannon is a working mom who lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her hubby and two girls. She was born and raised on the east coast and followed her husband out west when he got a job offer that he couldn't refuse. Eva has always been a planner, so it took her a while to accept that no matter how much you plan and prepare, being a mom means a new and different state of "normal". Despite the craziness on most weekday mornings (getting a family of four out the door in time for work and school is no easy task!), she wouldn't trade being a mother for anything in the world. She and her husband are working on introducing the girls to the things they love - travel, the great outdoors, and enjoying time with family and friends. Eva can be found on Twitter @evafannon.

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SINGAPORE: Giving Our Children Roots and Wings

SINGAPORE: Giving Our Children Roots and Wings

As parents, we desire to raise successful kids. But often the measurement of success can be so vastly different depending on our backgrounds, experiences and expectations. In Singapore, academic success is one of the top measures.  Parents will sign up their kids for every enrichment and tuition centre in a heart beat, if it promises to improve their child’s grade.

For some, it could be developing their kids’ full potential in the area of music, art, or sports, and sending them to take every class to discover their talents from a young age. For others, it might be simply equipping their kids with the life skills to get them through whatever life throws at them, the kind of smart I prefer, “street smarts.”

Over the years, Singapore’s education system is slowly steering it’s direction from just developing book smart students to being more holistic, realising that there is more than one way to recognise our kids’ abilities.

I’m really glad about these changes as my daughter will enter formal education next year, and to be honest I wasn’t an ace student. Many times I felt that I was judged by how well I scored on my exams and if I disappointed my parents and myself when I didn’t achieve fantastic results. But over the years, I discovered that I have other talents and gifts that are just not related to how book smart I am.

Though I think my daughter’s pretty smart (okay, I’m a biased mom ), I know these changes to the education system gives me greater assurance that she will thrive when she starts school. But as a parent, I also have an responsibility in shaping who she is and my role is to give her roots and wings.

Roots and Wings

Just like a tree, in order for it to reach it’s fullest potential and stand strong to withstand the different elements, its’ roots must go deep and be firmly planted. These are the qualities I wish most for and I try to instill in her:

1. To be rooted in her identity
I want my daughter to be deeply rooted in the knowledge of her own identity. I want her to love herself for who she is and not strive to be someone else. I want her to recognize that she’s uniquely her, complete with her vivacious and vibrant personality, her sense of humour, and heart of gold.

2. To be rooted in character and values

Peer pressure will be a very real issue in school and that’s when our kids’ character and values are put to the test. As a parent, we have to ingrain values of honesty, compassion, integrity, kindness, responsibility, perseverance, and the list goes on. The best way to teach these to our kids? To model them ourselves.

3. To soar on wings of exploration
Besides having deep roots, I hope that my girl will develop wings to seek out the world. To be filled with curiosity and awe with a hunger to know more. I want to be the parent that says, ” That’s an interesting question, let’s find the answer.” and never to stop her from asking questions.

4. To have wings of independence

Our kids will grow up no matter how much we wish for them to remain cute and small. And the key is to ensure that they are equipped with life skills to see them through their days. As a young toddler, I’ve roped my girl to help around the house from picking up after herself, clearing her plate when she’s finished her meals, or loading the laundry.

As she gets older, she knows she has to be responsible for her belongings and pack her own bags. We’ve taught her what to do if she ever gets lost, and now she’s learning how to count money, an essential skill needed at the school canteen soon.

I also intend to teach how to manage her time wisely, budget and save,  and maybe even cook. We can start from frying an egg!

As parents, it won’t be easy for us to let go of our kids when they eventually grow up, have their own ideas, friends and all. But when that day comes, we’ll be glad that our children are ready to soar high with their wings, knowing we’ve provided them with the skills to navigate the skies!

How do you help your child(ren) develop roots of responsibility and wings of independence?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by contributor, Susan Koh from A Juggling Mom in Singapore. 

Susan Koh

Susan is from Singapore. As a full-time working mom, she's still learning to perfect the art of juggling between career and family while leading a happy and fulfilled life. She can't get by a day without coffee and swears she's no bimbo even though she likes pink and Hello Kitty. She's loves to travel and blogs passionately about parenting, marriage and relationship and leading a healthy life at A Juggling Mom.

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