Ever since she had her first period at age 12, Aditi Gupta was taught to keep the existence of her monthly cycle a secret — even from her family. “When girls [in India] get their periods, they are considered impure for those seven days,” said Gupta. “That is how I grew up, seeing myself as impure. That sense of shame was instilled in me from a very young age.”
Back then Gupta used rags instead of sanitary products during her period — a practice all too common in a country where 88 percent of women and girls use unsafe materials while menstruating. According to a study for Menstrual Hygiene Day, one in three schoolgirls across South Asia were unaware of what a period was before experiencing it for the first time — and an estimated one in five schoolgirls in India eventually drop of school due to problems caused by menstruation and lack of toilets.
To help change that, Gupta launched Menstrupedia, an organization that seeks to promote “period positivity” by raising awareness and knowledge about menstruation. Among their tools, which include a YouTube channel and a Facebook page, is a highly successful comic book, targeted at girls nine and older, that guides them through navigating their first period. The comic, featuring clear illustrations of female anatomy and storylines adapted from real life experiences, has already been integrated into 70 schools across India.
“Myth breaking and period positivity are our strategies, and we wanted to make it a comic book because it’s inclusive,” explained Gupta. “We wanted to do it in a positive and matter-of-fact way to debunk misconceptions, and so that parents and teachers would be comfortable using it. Girls can read it and say ‘oh, this happened to me too!'”
Read the full story at TIME.