Making women aware on mensurational cups and make them a healthier lifestyle is the mission of this campaign in Siddipet district of Telangana. The main objective was to provide menstruation cups to thousands of Siddipet women in order to prevent them from using unclean rags during their periods.

Because many people have concerns about using menstruation cups, it wasn’t simple persuading police to do away with pads. Breaking taboos from that era was also difficult.

In India, discussing women’s menstruation in public is often frowned upon. N. Swetha, the Siddipet District Police Commissioner for Telangana, first hesitating. She nevertheless talked about menstruation health. T. Harish Rao, the minister of health, continued without hesitation. ‘Mission Menstrual Cups’ is currently gaining traction.

Their comments were merely first steps. The main objective was to provide menstruation cups to thousands of Siddipet women in order to prevent them from using unclean rags during their periods. There was still the issue even for those ladies who switched from cloth to sanitary pads problem of disposal. Drains were beginning to clog. The administration had to arrest the environmental damage quickly.

Police officer Swetha, however, wished for her department to follow her example. In her own cupboard, a menstruation cup had been gathering dust for three years.

She began wearing a menstruation cup as a first step and gradually persuaded 160 of her female police officers to follow suit. Swetha told ThePrint, “I realised that my staff needs to use and feel it before we go out and demonstrate its benefits to others. She had never thought about the effect sanitary pads had on the environment prior to this. 12.3 billion tonnes of sanitary napkins are added to India’s waste every year, making it a country with a serious landfill problem.

However, persuading those female cops to drop the decades-old pads for menstrual cups, the usage of which comes with fear and apprehensions for many. What followed was some heavy-duty evangelising – workshops with gynaecologists, directions for use, videos, and the all-important WhatsApp group. The women police officers began sharing their experiences on the group, posting queries and real-time advice.

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And just like that, the taboo was broken.

A CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) effort by the Bengaluru-based company Stonesoup that began as a trial programme in a district ward evolved into a full-fledged drive in April when Harish Rao publicly unveiled the Rutu Prema (Safe Periods) initiative in Siddipet. Promoting enduring and healthy menstruation habits was the goal. Additionally, the district administration is currently working on the programme to encourage six lakh menstruation women to utilise cups.

“It’s an ambitious goal, but we’ll gradually make progress. According to district additional collector Muzzamil Khan, the first step is to bring about a behavioural change that will allow women to discuss it openly.

Menstrual cups are not a topic that is frequently discussed in India’s mainstream media or sold over the counter. The greatest individuals to spread this understanding to the general public are frontline workers, according to Khan.

Today, Mission Menstrual Cups resembles a census or election process. It has recruited public servants, educators, and healthcare professionals to help spread the word.

Approximately 7,000 female frontline workers in the district have received menstrual cups after attending awareness sessions. These workers range from police to panchayat secretaries and female department employees to Anganwadi, ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers, and women in healthcare. All government school instructors were given an explanation of the advantages before being requested to purchase the cups at a reduced cost.

One lady, one family, one hamlet at a time, there was a growing openness to discuss menstruation as the campaign gained traction.

Aruna Sri, the Panchayath Secretary of Gurralagondi village, received a call at 11 p.m. and spent the next 20 minutes teaching a woman who had just started her period how to use a menstrual cup. “I was shocked, but I also felt relieved that ladies were seriously considering this choice. She was shown how to fold it so that it would fit properly. She was quite afraid of injuring herself or causing harm to her body, but I persisted in talking to her,” she adds.

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There is still a long way to go, according to Aruna Sri, and this willingness to talking did not develop overnight who went from door to door in the district’s Gurralagondi village talking about menstrual cups.

She also went to agricultural fields, showing ASHA workers how to use them. She gathered the women working in the village’s sanitation department and spoke to them as well. Of the 440 menstruating women, 80 per cent now use menstrual cups, Sri says with pride.

Other district officials, too, started documenting their ‘success stories’. According to Swetha, more than 90 per cent of her women police staff have started using menstrual cups, and now, the department is reaching out to the families of male police officers as well.

Another benefit of using the cups is the fact that they don’t leak. Women officers do not worry about staining their clothes after long hours of duty on the field or when they get drenched in the rain.

“My subordinate’s daughter practises cricket on the same ground where I go for a run in the morning. We introduced the idea of using a cup, and once she got used to it, she came and told me how comfortable she was with it, even in her white uniform,” Swetha says.

These conversations make the police officer happy. “What was a secret all my life I am now openly talking about to all the women in my district,” adds Sri. Zilla Parishad chairperson V. Roja Sharma switched to a menstrual cup and got 10 women in her family to use it as well.

“A cup is a better alternative over pads, and it is a one-time investment,” she says. It’s more hygienic than pieces of cloth that are often dried in hidden corners with no sunlight.

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Apart from itching, rashes, and skin allergies, which women experience while using sanitary napkins, their long-term effects could also include endocrine disruption, say doctors.

The district administration is now reaching out to self-help groups (SHGs) in villages to spread the message further. There are WhatsApp groups with doctors as members in almost every department.

The mission doesn’t end with just getting women to use cups. On the ground, staff follows up with women who’ve made the switch and take their feedback. It’s a constant process based on open communication, and it takes place on the ground.

The most common worry is how to safely insert a cup. Will it get lost inside? Will it be painful? What about virgins — will the cup tear the hymen? The doubt is being clarified only on personal calls, says Bengaluru-based doctor and environmentalist Shanti Tummala who is also a part of the awareness programme.

“Since the cup requires insertion inside the vagina, a lot of unmarried women in police and other departments were worried that it could damage their hymen, which itself is a myth,” she says.

Even female policemen and administrators would call her to talk about this. According to Dr. Shanti, “They would tell me that their mothers are against them using the cup since they aren’t yet married and insertion could harm their virginity and their chances of getting married.”

The doctor had to inform them that the notion of the “total virginity concept” was untrue. After all, the hymen could rupture even with vigorous exercise. We also explain to children that cups do not in any way harm anything, she continues.

The patience and hard work are beginning to pay off. Already, 15,000 women in the district use cups; the goal is to increase that number to one lakh by the end of the next year. #hydnews #khabarlive #hydlive