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How the Laadli Media and Advertising Awards started a journey

Sharing more than just information on menstruation with Priyanka in Maharashtra

"I remember you today Priyanka. One year ago I met you in your school in a village in remote Maharashtra. What you shared with me, I carried 'far and wide' just as I had promised I would. I hope together, you and I, served the purpose to hope for a better world for adolescent girls and women who have not much idea about menstrual hygiene management."

I spoke these words softly to myself while climbing the stairs to the carpeted stage when my name was announced as the winner of the Laadli Media and Advertising Awards for Gender Sensitivity 2013. In the glaring lights, the gifting of the elegant trophy and the spotlight over me, I thought to myself,

"It had always not been like this."

The journey till here began on the dusty roads of rural India. A world and a life that took lengthy descriptions and elaborations about how different it was, for the people who had abundance in urban space.

When I had first sat to occupy the quiet desk in a corner of my home, I had been eager to carry to others the world where millions of adolescent girls and women live in complete darkness about menstruation in my country, wading through their childhood, adolescence, marriage and reproductive life of a mother , without once knowing what menstruation is.

I had been keen to carry forth the backward status of majority of women in my country who thought menstruation was 'dirty', 'unworthy of discussion', 'not entitled to family resources', ' deserving of seclusion from family and society' and a 'justified reason for not being allowed to touch food or utensils during 'those days of the month'.

Last year I traveled 60 days on road to cover major states and regions in India that face problems of water, sanitation and ignorance on menstrual hygiene management. The organizer of such a large touring intervention was Wash United, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), Arghyam, Water AID among other international donors and NGOs.

In this journey a country-wide survey was done at every state and region we stopped to assess the status of water, sanitation and menstrual hygiene management among adolescent girls and women. Once the survey was wrapped up, trainings, informal workshops and focused group discussions were used to disseminate accurate information on hygiene and menstruation.

It was the most enriching experience of my life to be meeting real people in their real environments which explained their situation and interact with so many women at the same time.

I met Priyanka in one such travel to the state of Maharashtra. I was in her school with another lady facilitator, talking to all the adolescent girls in the school, conducting a survey on our tablets and then holding a focused group discussion on menstruation.

About 'Laadli', the Girl Child Campaign:

Laadli is a girl child campaign from Population First against sex selection and the falling sex ratio in India. In a country where there are reported to be less than 800 girls for every 1000 boys in 16 districts, this is an alarming truth about the way the Indian society is obsessed with the 'boy child'.

The Laadli Media and Advertising Awards was instituted to propagate a genre of media reporting that gives attention to issues of the gender in the right perspective, allowing respect and dignity to the woman.

When the award came for my work on taboos on menstruation in India and the state of reproductive health owing to these taboos and malpractices, I was convinced it was meant to strengthen my work on menstrual hygiene management. I take this moment in my life as an encouragement to keep going till a day comes when there is no taboo around any aspect of a woman's reproductive health.

A space when women can freely tell their daughters about menstruation, there is no restriction on going and buying sanitary pads from shops or cotton cloth for absorbing the fluid and no girl is stopped from going to the kitchen or the temple while she is menstruating.A day when there is no event in their lives which stops them from getting an education-not menstruation at least!!

I accept this award on behalf of all those girls and women who shared an aspect of their lives and helped me to carry the torch forward.

(I now head a global campaign ' Breaking the Silence' and ' Celebrating the Red Droplets' engaging men, women, boys, girls alike through social media, training and capacity building and rally with a focus on raising awareness on menstruation and the need to manage it hygienically)

Urmila Chanam
Social Development Professional in HIV/AIDS, Gender Rights Activist & Journalist

Read the article here: We don't talk about it at all! The taboo of menstruation in rural Maharashtra, a major deterrent in menstrual hygiene.

Links of the award:
1. The Sangai Express

2. E-pao

3.International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP 11), Bangkok, Thailand

4. Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)

5. India Water Portal

6. Manipur News

7. Silobreaker

Laadli Media and Advertising Awards for Gender Sensitivity
Maharashtra State:Reaching out to adolescent girls in their schools with messages on menstrual hygiene management
Madhya Pradesh: Classroom focussed group discussions on menstruation
Teachers and staff in the schools are important stake holders in the menstrual hygiene management programme; seen here holding a discussion on how to ensure the school introduces menstrual hygiene
One-to-ones with school going adolescent girls and conducting survey
Bihar: The male teachers and headmaster take keen interest to have a proper toilet separately for girls and a dustbin to dispose sanitary material
Water Supply Sanitation Collaborative Council, Arghyam and Goonj Team for Menstrual Hygiene Management
Rajasthan: The male headmaster tells that the taboo around reproduction and biology is so strong in rural parts that taking a class on reproduction has been shelved several times
Bihar: Talking to girls in school about what is going on in their bodies during puberty
Madhya Pradesh: Talking to women who are mothers
Maharashtra: Random interviews on menstrual taboos with women in the market
Conducting surveys using technology(tablets) was the best innovation
Talking to women about all their activities during menstruation indicate the taboos, restrictions, decisions taken by family with respect to their education or early marriage
This wrist band is a popular exercise developed by WSSCC Geneva. The women make their own bands using yellow beads for the days they don't menstruate and red beads for the days they do. The band is a statement that " I am proud and not ashamed "



C’est jolie ma sœur vous été bien n’habillé


Urmila Chanam's picture

Thank you

Dear Sylvie,

Thank you for your comment.Take care.

Love and prayers,
Urmila Chanam,

It takes just one to change many

Usha RS's picture

Congratulations Urmila

Urmila I am so delighted and heart warmed to hear about the work you are doing, honoring menstruation. My hope is that you are discussing it from a biological, emotional, psychological, and spiritual perspective. There is so much to be transformed in this social arena.
I did not know about Laadli so thank you for highlighting their vision.
Keep up the good work dearest and let me know if I can support you in any way.
Usha x

Let your light shine!

Urmila Chanam's picture

So much of transformation

Dear Usha,

Thank you for your warm message and offer to help me. You will be of great help in this campaign because you are a girl and you know how it is to be one!

I will certainly share with you an opportunity to strengthen this campaign. Do let us keep in touch.

Much love,
Urmila Chanam,

It takes just one to change many

olutosin's picture

Welldone my sister

Great work you are doing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town


My dear sister, my love Olutosin,

There is a void left in me since the time you have left India and gone back to Nigeria and the void is partially filled only from knowing that you are involved in so many great works, my sister!

Thank you for being there for me in every way a person can be for another.

Love and hugs,
Always in my prayers,
Urmila Chanam,

It takes just one to change many

Shilpa Balakrishnan's picture


Congrats for your award. Well done...even same people are here also in remote village.....

Urmila Chanam's picture

Same story

Dear Shilpa,

I have found an identical story in almost all the parts of India, except for the north-east zone which I have not explored in the context of menstrual hygiene. What was most surprising is that even the urban woman is not very informed about it. The reason behind this, to my observation is the lack of importance given to the health and well-being of a girl in the family to such an extent that even the girl does not spend time, resources on it.

This should change.

Thanks for the wishes and the comment. Looking forward to be in touch.

Urmila Chanam,

It takes just one to change many

Celine's picture

You Deserve the award

Congratulations for the award. You deserve it my shinning sister.


Urmila Chanam's picture

Your love

My dear sister Celine,

Sister, thank you for your kind words and mighty love. I am a lucky girl to be surrounded by the warmth, encouragement and support of sisters of World Pulse worldwide.

I read your story on how women weave the web and was moved beyond tears to read of your account. Bless you my love.

Love and hugs,
Urmila Chanam,

It takes just one to change many

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