BREAKING BARRIERS BUILDING BRIDGES: A Conference on Menstrual Equality
Mingalaba, Namaste, Salam Alakam, good morning, good afternoon, good evening everyone.
Thank you so much for joining.
On behalf of Global South Coalition for Dignified menstruation, I would extend our sincere thanks and gratitude to organizer, for having us.
I take this opportunity to congratulate to Purple Feminist Group especially to Nandar for hosting such a historical event in global south.
Let’s applause to Purple Feminist Group and Nandar. Both are the great source of inspiration to me and I am sure for many of us.
At personal note, it is my great honored and privileged to speak as a key note speaker to break the barriers and building bridges for menstrual dignity.
Since I confirmed my key note speech with Nandar, kept thinking and I got stuck with few questions as follows;
- Are we, activists, academia, donors, CSOs etc. seriously looking for the underlying barriers
- Are we really looking for the tangible tools to break these barriers and to build the bridges?
Seriously and honestly, my answer is NO. That doesn’t mean I am super pathetic.
There is logical path or number of reasons behind my claiming for NO.
- Today, miserably, the home is not safe place at all. I believed that you all remember the UN Secretary General’s statement on shadow pandemic for domestic violence in 2021. What is the underlying cause for such shadow pandemic? In other words why and how does the home become a factory of domestic violence, or invisible conflict, or state of disempowerment? The sex selective abortion, negligence in rearing and caring, bad touch, sexual, verbal, physical abuses, forced and child marriage, rape, delay in seeking quality health cares, intimate partner violence, discrimination in property rights, unequal pay, indecent work, discrimination in death rituals etc. are the common and reported forms of violence throughout the lifecycle of menstruators at home and community globally.
- I do ask a question- What is the driver of such manifested shadow pandemic?
- I know that you all agree with me. The more than half of the population of this planet born with uterus and ovaries. It means they menstruate and menopause except few medical conditions.
- Regardless to sex, class, caste, religion, education, region etc., they experienced taboos, shyness, stigma, abuses, restrictions and deprivation from services and resources that associated with menstrual perceptions, practices at home, school, community and everywhere including parliament at various names, forms, and magnitude globally.
- Such menstrual perceptions and practices play pivotal role to create unequal power relation between people who have uterus and ovaries and who have not. In other words, between menstruators and non-menstruators.
- That unequal power relation takes place at home when the girls or boys are in between the ages of 6-9 years. Girls yet to menstruate though they not only knew all `do’ and ‘do not’ for and to menstruation but also considered as powerless, impure, inferior and disadvantaged. Meanwhile, boys have not have anything to do. Means they started to consider themselves as pure, powerful, superior and privileged.
- Without having any educational degree, professional positions, earned property, built muscle or any identity, boys become special or powerful. Here, the unequal power construction takes place at home. Do we acknowledge this fact while working for gender equality or human rights or women empowerment or feminism?
- Consequently, meanwhile, the patriarchy reinforced. Not only boys, but also the girls and rest of the society started to see them special which means institutionalized the patriarchy. This is how the vicious circle of unequal power relation and patriarchy formed and operating for generations to generations.
- Thus, mostly, the menstruators converted as victim and non-menstruators converted as perpetrators.
- Therefore, we all are perpetrators for making boys violent. They are not born as violent. We never teach them that they born from the menstrual blood. If we were, they could socialize with gratitude towards menstruators and holding accountability for preventing SGBV.
- Instead of breaking the deep silence and ignorance around menstruation, we are busy for `othering’ or blaming to culture, religion, poverty, politicians, faith leaders etc. and creating a `deep and dark fear’ at home, school, community, parliament and everywhere. Sadly, we are waiting for a leader to disclose such barriers within ourselves.
- The answer is very simple and clear that is discriminatory menstrual practice or menstrual discrimination which is globally practices in various forms, names and magnitude in all diverse setting. No one can imagine the place without the people who have uterus and ovaries. Wherever they are, they experienced discrimination related with daily activities before, during and after the menstruation like which food allow to have and which not, likewise where should go or move and where should not and where should touch and where should not and what should talk or what should not talk about menstruation.
- Whatever the practice, is not just exploded as like COVID-19 Pandemic? Of course no. Discriminatory menstrual practices have been place in this planet since the time of homo sapience. Regrettably, we, globally missed to unfold such practices and its impacts on social, political, economical, environmental, technical realm of the society from an individual to UN level and vice versa.
- Few of you may disagree with me and claimed that you have been working on human rights since 1948. Yes, this is very true but I do ask again,- is there any clause or strategy or movement where the menstrual practices analyzed and addressed as a form of violation of human rights? No. No systemically. All born with menstruation but they failed to hold accountability and express gratitude on their existence.
- The mercury of few of my friends raised up and thinking about CEDAW as first women’s human rights instruments since 1979. Let me ask you a question again. Which article, considered the menstrual discrimination is underlying barrier for gender equality or violation of human rights. Sadly, such complex and multifaceted menstrual discrimination dismissal by coining with traditional harmful practices. How dared you are to call menstrual discrimination is a traditional harmful practice? Is the menstrual discrimination associated with particular group or place? Of course NOT.
- Often, I noticed that many of us in confusion on what makes first in between gender norms and menstrual practice. Till now, our documents claimed that gender norms construct the menstrual practice. Is this really true? Do you forget the story of role of menstrual practice in construction and shape of power and patriarchy? Yes, therefore, menstrual practice constructs the gender norms and that applies throughout of our lives in all levels and sectors. Thus, without debunk the menstrual discriminatory practices we could not deconstruct the gender norms.
- I observed that many participants here, joining from extensive work experiences on SGBV. You may think that I am telling lie or I am manipulative. Yes, since 1993, we all worked hard and invest a lot of energy for eliminating sexual and gender based violence. Unfortunately, we all missed to account the menstrual discrimination is not only a form of sexual and gender based violence but also cause and effect for various forms of sexual and gender based violence including child marriage.
- Are you still doubt on me? Let me give a simple example. Prohibition of watering to flower or hiding menstrual products during menstruation or menopausal bleeding is very common practice in many cultures globally. Here, a sets of human rights violated at once such as right to dignity, equality, freedom, mobility, education etc. According to UN’s SGBV definition, in these examples, at least two kinds of SGBVs observed. They are emotional and denial of resources.
- I also noticed that few of my participants disagreeing with me because they are working around SRHR and CSE for years. They claimed that they are working for menstrual dignity. Sorry friends, you are working for anatomy and physiology of menstruation or partly menstrual management but not working for dismantling dozens of the menstrual discriminating practices.
- Today, each of you so busy for implementing SDGs. It’s very sad even the SDGs missed out menstrual discrimination. I can give a guarantee that the menstrual discrimination is a barrier for more than 9 SDGs. Let me give an example for SDG 8, decent work. If your workplace and policy won’t be dignified menstruation friendly, how a person who is menstruating or peri-menopausal symptoms could work in dignified manner. Could you imagine the suffering, struggle of 70 % women are involved in informal work or 70% female health workers who are working as frontline health workers.
- Now, the climate justice is popular and again the role of menstrual discrimination is missing. Therefore, the efforts for climate justice is becoming another form of rhetoric intervention for intervention.
- It means the most of the menstruators experienced systemic and symptomatic negative impacts of menstrual discrimination.
- I know, many of you claimed that you have been touched upon such barriers through free distribution of menstrual products, reduction of tax for menstrual products or constructions of toilets. Such menstrual products, toilet or water supply are important elements but not address the multifaceted and complex nature of menstrual discrimination which is facing by each menstruators especially in global south.
- Have our gender responsive or gender equality and social inclusion policies address the discrimination of menstruation and menopause. No. unfortunately, UN is the main misleading institution for NOT breaking the barriers and building the bridges.
- Global community has already mid-way for SDG implementation and without any hesitation, I can say, it won’t go much farther because we are missing menstrual discrimination as problem or dignified menstruation as a solution.
- Therefore, let’s shout out to UN, INGOs, every funders and actors for not only listening the stories of leaders from global south but also acknowledged their leadership.
- Let’s shifting the funds and resources towards the global South.
- And also don’t fall on trap with elites lead NGOs at global south at the name of Professional proposal and reports. In GSCDM, there are many organizations are associated from Asia and Africa for dignified menstruation but they don’t have funds at all.
- Let’s focus our energy to change the narrative around menstruation and gender equality. Let’s work for dignified menstruation, an innovative, holistic, feminist approach for gender equality for examining the menstrual practices as life cycle approach through human rights lens.
- Let’s unite for dignified menstruation as building bridges, and let’s make our home, school, community, workplace, prisons, restaurants, hotels, industries, cinema halls, banks, hospitals, camps of securities, refugees, migrants, shelters and everywhere for every menstruators including disability, Transgender, pandemics, disasters and everywhere dignified for all menstruators and non menstruators.
- Let’s unite and make a CALL for Action to UN for adopting 8th December as a dignified menstruation day.
- I conclude my key note speech to appeal for marking the 8th December 2023 as fifth international dignified menstruation day for saving each menstruators and this planet. The information regards to marking 5th International dignified menstruation is available in GSCDM’s social cites.
- Once again, thank you so much for joining and this opportunity. Wishing you all have wonderful conference ahead.