I had the honor of being involved with and presenting at India Dreamin back in October of 2017. The trip to India was such an amazing experience on so many levels that it has consumed my thoughts since leaving. There was so much beauty and hospitality there, and the people that I met were truly the nicest I have ever encountered. During my time in India, however, I was acutely aware of how much I take for granted in America. One simple interaction during my visit there burned in my mind, and spurred me to take some action.
I was lucky enough to have friends take me around and show me different things during my India trip. Paarth Jolly and Jiten Joysar knew of my obsession with Bollywood, and took me to see Judwaa 2– first time watching a movie in all Hindi with no subtitles! The movie was fun, but that is not what stood out to me about that part of my trip. Upon entering the theater, guests pass through security. The women are patted down behind a curtain by a female guard. When it was my turn, I got patted down, and the guard proceeded to go through my purse. She pulled out the tampons that I always keep in my purse (as do 100% of American women I know), and held them up to me with a puzzled look on her face. She didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Hindi, but I tried to explain to her what she was holding. She just said “NO!” and threw them in the bin. I shrugged it off and thought that was how India did things. I didn’t feel comfortable bringing it up to Paarth and Jiten, so I just let it go.
After I returned to America, I was swimming in the memories of India, and all that I saw during my journey. The beauty, the culture, the poverty, the strays, but that event at the theater stuck in my mind. I wanted to know why that guard confiscated the tampons. So, I talked to my close friend Sumit about what happened, and what he told me opened my eyes to a critical issue in India: the topic of Menstruation. Sumit explained to me that talking about menstruation and feminine hygiene in general is very taboo in India. When I told him what happened at the theater, he said he is positive the guard didn’t even know what she was confiscating. The conversation with Sumit led me to start researching the topic, and I learned more about the taboo, shame and lack of education that exists around feminine hygiene. This article reports about a young student who committed suicide as a result of period shaming by her teacher in class. According to the Times of India, inadequate menstrual protection makes adolescent girls aged 12 to 18 miss five days of school on average each month, or about 50 days a year. Some girls drop out altogether after starting their periods. Perhaps the most concerning statistics I read involved women in villages, who are suffering severe infections and even death as a result of not understanding what is going on with their own bodies and how to properly manage their menstruation, or do not have adequate materials in order to do so.
As I read more and more about the topic, I felt compelled to try to organize in some way to help not only shed light on this topic, but perhaps organize the power of the Salesforce Ohana to give back in support of this issue. I wanted to be sensitive to the issue and not overstep my boundaries or offend anyone by trying to organize the Indian community around this issue, so I presented my idea to fellow Salesforce MVP and Noida UG Leader, Vinay Chaturvedi and Noida WIT Leader, Surbhi Narula. I had already agreed to present at their April TDX18 Global Gathering meeting, and thought that would be an ideal opportunity to talk about this potential project. Both agreed it would be an excellent initiative, so I went forward with my plan.
I found the NGO GOONJ in Delhi whose mission, as stated on their website, is “focused to work on ignored basic needs like clothing, sanitary pads for village and slum India while changing the dynamics of giving & receiving with dignity.” After an initial call and excitement from GOONJ team members, and subsequent office visit by Surbhi, I am happy to announce that GOONJ will be making a short presentation at the April TDX18 Global Gathering in Noida about their mission.
Here is my call to action for you, Salesforce Ohana. This is not just a women’s issue; this is a HUMAN issue. Surbhi and I are asking for support from around the globe. What can you do?
- If you are attending the 7 April meeting in Noida, we ask that you bring in an item from this list:
- If you cannot make the meeting, and are local to GOONJ location, please consider giving material directly to GOONJ. They also need Volunteers. Please get involved.
- If you are a User Group leader, please spread the word and rally your members around this cause and get involved. GOONJ has locations all over India.
- If you are outside of India and wish to help, a contribution of funds directly to GOONJ is appreciated.
- Talk to each other about this issue. Knowledge is power! Lessen the taboo around menstruation and educate people.
As with many issues, education is key to making change. Surbhi and I are very excited to work with the greater Salesforce Ohana to help spread the message and support the mission of GOONJ.