Two years ago, Sonakhi Rumi, an 18 year old ranger (senior guide) from India, had her period when she was taking her 10th grade exam.
The severe cramps that followed were the worst. She could not complete her exam and had to leave the examination hall an hour before the end. She felt embarrassed in front of her friends, so much so that the experience was like a nightmare. She could not face anyone until her mother helped her understand what the period was.
“That is when I realised how misinformed I was about my own body and the process it goes through. Stories of other girls like me were the same. I wanted to help these girls, who like me would feel ashamed for something very natural and normal.” says Sonakhi, “After that day, every day for me became menstrual hygiene day.”
Sonakhi, in her endeavour to help girls in a similar situation started the Facebook page Reboot of thoughts on Menstruation, where she posts videos daily of people speaking about menstruation, a topic people continue to treat with shame and hesitate to talk about.
Sonakhi approaches people personally to share with her videos. She starts with people she knows who then introduce this to their friends, continuing the chain. She has so far posted more than 700 videos and has extended her work to other social media platforms like Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. But do people always agree with her?
“NO, a big NO...” answers Sonakhi,” Sometimes it is easy but sometimes it can take days. If people refuse, I try to talk with them and clarify their perception of menstruation. This works most of the time and they agree later to share videos. These efforts are always worth it in the end because this is what the “Reboot” is about- to change people thoughts on menstruation and make them accept the issue in normal way.”
Sonakhi’s work has given her a strong reputation on this subject. She is invited to schools and camps and conducts street plays and performs at various functions to talk about periods. Recently she was delighted to be mentioned by Menstrual Hygiene Day’s twitter handle, applauding her work. Going forward, she is planning to organise a red day festival.
But reputation is not what Sonakhi is looking for. She wants a bold, positive conversation and approach to the discussion on periods with girls, as well as more respect and care from boys. She believes she has been able to achieve a lot in this short journey of almost a year and can’t to take more action to achieve her aim in the years to come.