Week-long Maasika Mahotsav to promote women's health across Mumbai
In an effort to promote women's health and break taboos surrounding the subject of menstruation, Thane-based NGO Muse Foundation is organising a festival to celebrate periods in various parts of Mumbai. Titled Maasika Mahotsav, which literally translates into Menstruation Festival, the ongoing week-long festival brings art, culture and sports events alongside educative sessions, all themed around women empowerment and menstruation.
The festival is an extension of its five-year-old programme, A Period Of Sharing, which was started in 2014. “It started when we were astounded to read about a school in Dhanu (Maharashtra) which has many orphan girls who didn’t have a consistent supply of hygienic products,” says 27-year-old Nishant Bangera, who founded Muse Foundation in 2012. “So, we came up with the campaign A Period Of Sharing, where we started collecting supplies from cities and started supplying them in Dhanu and since then we got into the field of Menstrual Health Management,” adds Bangera.
Gradually, his NGO started spreading awareness about sustainable menstruation. “We held sessions across schools, colleges and societies in Mumbai, where we spoke to about 3,000 women on what menstrual cups and cloth pads are and why disposable sanitary napkins are harmful for health and environment,” recalls Bangera, who later realised that imparting technical know-how to women is not enough and he has to involve the society at large in this conversation to bring a change in the society. Hence he decided to organise India’s first menstrual festival Maasik Mahotsav in 2017.
“When we were speaking to women, several things came up including the products they use and how they dispose of them, the practices they follow and menstrual disorders they face. For example, many women do not wash their hair during periods as they consider themselves impure, while many others don’t touch things edible assuming that they will get soiled, and yet some others endure immense pain during periods without confiding into someone. That pain might be due to something else altogether for which they might require immediate medical attention,” says Bangera. “So, we thought the best way to break the ice is probably by talking about it. If we can celebrate birthdays, why not celebrate the very reason of birth?” he further states.
The festival also invites doctors to speak about menstruation hygiene and break the taboos surrounding periods. There are several activities as well to make it a lighter subject, such as a puzzle game where a uterus model has to be created using the pieces. Besides, there are also events like cycling and football tournament. The festival is inclusive and aspires to involve the men and the extended family members of the women as well.
In its third year, the festival that’s concluding on Menstrual Hygiene Day, on May 28, is also being celebrated in states including West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Karnataka, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Assam and the neighbouring country Nepal.