The objective of the campaign called "#Yes I Bleed" is to create a holistic approach to issue of menstruation, which is an experience that transcends culture, class, and caste.
The United Nations has recognised menstrual hygiene as a global public health and a human rights issue yet across the globe. "Period poverty" as some call it, is a reality for millions of women and girls.
Speaking on the occasion, Maneka Gandhi said she was happy to be present and associated with much needed awareness campaign, and added that the subject of menstrual hygiene is "more about a change of mind set than simply about the use of proper menstrual products".
This (mind set change) is happening, but much more needs to be done. Menstruation is much more than just about losing blood and unused eggs, she added.
"Equally important is the safe disposal of used sanitary pads, which actually are an environmental disaster. In villages, the used pads often end up in village ponds, exposing every human being and animal to the risk of infection," she added.
Gandhi further said that improper products and poor practices can have consequences for the physical and mental well being of a woman.
"Today, in India, approximately 35 crore women menstruate and it is estimated that only 12 percent use proper menstrual hygiene practices and menstrual products," the minister said.
She also dwelled on the issue of school drop outs and poor attendance because of inadequate menstrual hygiene management. This also, she said, is one of the causes for loss of wages for women labourers.
Popular actor Divya Dutta said, "We need to spread the word; to take up the issue of menstruation in the right way. It has to be done in a campaign mode, not through speeches and meetings."
"We need to inculcate a system where there are no taxes imposed for sanitary pads, where sanitary pads are available for free. This should not be a big deal. For instance, in Kerala, sanitary pads are given away free to students. The issue of menstruation should also be a part of the education system. Hygiene should be included in education," she added.
Disposal of sanitary pads also be done in a disciplined and clean manner, she said, adding, "Everyone must do their bit."
The campaign called "#Yes I Bleed" will be initiated formally across all multi-media platforms, including Facebook and YouTube.
Subodh Gupta, patron of SheWings and Director of Okaya Power Company, said, "Menstruation is still a taboo subject in our country and a topic that even women are uncomfortable discussing in public. There is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a natural physiological process. In order to dispel myths surrounding menstruation and to promote menstrual hygiene awareness, the #YesIBleed campaign was conceptualized."
He said he saw an extraordinary opportunity to contribute holistically and sensitively in the area of menstrual health, and advance social transformation and ecological awareness at every step.
In India, only 12 percent of the country's 355 million menstruating women can afford to avail sanitary protection.
Ravi Shankar, Co-founder of SheWings, said, "According to a Nielsen Survey, 23 per cent of adolescent Indian girls in the age group of 12-18 drop out of school once they reach puberty because of inadequate menstrual protection and a whopping 88 per cent who do not have access to sanitary pads, use unsanitised cloth, husk sand, tree leaves and even ash? These can cause severe reproductive health problems and infections, and can also lead to cervical cancer."
Today's launch by SheWings was done in association with the Women and Child Development Committee of the PHD Chamber, and was attended by among others Anuradha Goel, Chairperson of the committee, Anil Swarup, Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy and popular Kathak danseuse and former government official Shovana Narayan.
A short play titled "The Silent Treatment" was performed by Buniyaad- The Dramatics Society of Vivekananda College, Delhi University, as well. (ANI)