Health class and “birds and the bees” talks are staples of adolescent life in America, though discussions about human physiology are often relegated to adolescents undergoing puberty. Globally, the topic of menstruation is so taboo that health risks and social norms can be harmful, restricting and expensive.
“Menstruation is a topic of taboo…It is incredibly hard to get women to open up and talk about their fears, problems, and discomfort,” said Mohan. “We wanted to modify this attitude and help empower women, despite the problems they have to experience. We applied for a grant called Project for Peace, that enabled us to visit India and host seminars to teach women about menstrual hygiene management with a focus on menstrual cups, which would eventually prepare them to open up about the menstruation-related myths and taboos.”
As Pranav Mohan and fellow students Cindy Belardo and Abhishek Yadav wrote in their winning proposal
for United World Colleges’ Davis Projects for Peace
grant, “India – the country of 1.2 billion people, where approximately half of the population is women and 355 million of them are menstruating, 88% of these women and girls use homemade alternatives such as an old cloth, rags, hay, sand or ash as their sanitary pads during their menstrual cycle.”
After receiving the $10,000 grant, Mohan, Belardo, and Yadav began to turn their passion into action. From intensive research, the group created manuals to inform women of the costs, risks, and benefits of a range of menstrual health options. Mohan then travelled to India this summer and distributed the manuals to volunteers who held seminars around villages and schools the Lucknow area of Uttar Pradesh, India. As reported in the OU Daily
, nearly 300 women attended the information sessions and 138 purchased the recommended low-cost silicone cup.