Dakshinapan, Kolkata recently saw a first of its kind open air, free for all carnival dedicated exclusively to menstrual health and hygiene. This Menstrual Hygiene Day, Pink Carnival organised by Nirman Foundation aimed to develop a mini festival juxtaposed with bringing conversation on menstruation literally to the public; an attempt to normalise the dialogue around it. The event also introduced numerous initiatives that are taking place around the world. Pink Carnival came alive with an audience of approximately 200 people.

The evening started with a street play by Dramatically Correct, a youth theatre group, who drew the attention of the passersby, with their energetic, uninhibited performance. The street play began with a social experiment, where a performer roams helplessly with a stained skirt. Break the Silence – A step towards better menstrual health, a short film produced by Nirman Foundation was launched to mark the day

The film addressed the various barriers young girls have to face and the need to break away the myths and taboos that shrouds menstruation.Through interactive games and theatrical exercises Kaokatha Natyo Goshthiis, a theatre group working towards a social change, engaged the public in activities to explore beliefs that we unknowingly harbour around menstrual hygiene and the myths, taboos and stigma that surround it. They addressed how nuanced and challenging it can be for an adolescent girl to keep herself safe from numerous harms (psycho-social and health wise) and how it is quite possible to be safe too.

Abira Das, a class XI student of Calcutta International School recited a poem written by her— “The Temple Between My Thighs” which connoted the role of art and poetry in de-stigmatising social issues like menstruation.

An informative addaor a talk show followed, where experts in the field were invited to briefly share their thoughts and experiences in the field of menstrual health and hygiene. The panel members represented multiple perspectives and the discussion evoked curiosity and questions among the audience.

The speakers for the session were Johnson Jeyaseelan Devaraj (Unicef), Sahana Nag (Counsellor and Guest Faculty, CCSSS & Jadavpur University, Kolkata), PurviTanwani and Namrata Dutta Karamchandani from Anahat, Amarendra Kumar Singh on behalf of Suman Industries Pvt. Ltd. and Debayani Sen from Nirman Foundation.

Devaraj said, “There is ‘Men’ in the word ‘Menstruation’,” and encouraged men to come forward in supportive roles and create an enabling community and emphasised that menstruation being a normal biological process, should not pose as a hindrance in regular functions for any woman. Anahat shared their experiences and demonstrated their innovative cloth pad product that is an upcoming alternative eco-friendly solution.

Suman industries Pvt. Ltd. shared their experiences with low cost pad making unit in Latur, Maharashtra and screened a short video of the process a pad is made, SIPL also kept their low cost sanitary pads for free pick-ups. Sahana Nag put forth the psychological explanations behind myths and beliefs around menstruation and the impact these have on the well-being of young people.

Nirman Foundation shared their experience of working in 105 schools in rural and semi urban areas and extended, that while it is extremely important to move towards biodegradable absorbents, it is also important to currently keep girls in school and provide them with hygienic facilities and encourage debunking myths and taboos. Pink Carnival was an amalgamation of art, film, poetry, street play and enlightening discussions.