Oklahoma University seniors Pranav Mohan and Cindy Belardo, as well as graduate student Abhishek Yadav were the recipients of the United World Colleges’ Davis Project for Peace Grant and are using the $10,000 to educate women in India on menstrual health.
This summer the trio put their proposal of educating women on menstrual health into action with Mohan travelling to villages and schools in Lucknow in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, and educating women about menstrual health in areas where it is a taboo subject, OUDaily reported.
“Menstruation is a topic of taboo and it’s also a topic of shame,” said the Indian American student in the report. “We wanted to create that friendly environment where women can talk about it. Menstruation is such a thing that it creates a pressure, it creates a boundary around women where they are not able to open up, where they are bounded, so we wanted to break those cages and empower them."
Yadav said that Mohan and Belardo were very passionate about the subject and his role was to help them do the research to find their main focus point, which was educating women about the menstrual cup, according to the university publication.
The lack of education about menstrual health means that women aren’t aware of all their options and it can make menstruation a negative experience for women, said Mohan, a mechanical engineering major. Mohan said the team sees the menstrual cup as the best menstrual health option for many women, the report said.
Mohan said that there are a variety of reasons they suggest women use the menstrual cup, including that it lasts up to 12 hours, there’s less of a risk of toxic shock syndrome as there is in tampons, you can use the same cup for 8-10 years, it’s silicone so it molds to your body comfortably and it’s environmentally friendly and cheap, it added.
Mohan said there were about 12 seminars lead by the volunteers, each two-hour long sessions, reaching around 300 women.
Though 300 seems like a small number, he said the women are likely to talk about the menstrual cup with their friends and spread the idea by word-of-mouth, the publication said.
Mohan said the students bought the menstrual cup in bulk and sold it at a cheaper price to the women, with 138 buying one, it added.
One of the volunteers is following up with the women who chose to try the menstrual cup to see if they are experiencing any problems and if they like it, Belardo said in the report.
Other than promoting the menstrual cup, their main purpose was to educate, Belardo said.
“The whole premise of this project is to talk about menstruation and trying to break that taboo, which is here too, like even for me, my own life, I was not comfortable talking about that and especially also in India,” Belardo added. “So that’s our main goal, just to educate. A lot of women don’t even realize what is happening to their body, and to me, that’s a right just to know, it’s such a natural process, you shouldn’t be ashamed, you shouldn’t be embarrassed.”