'Breaking the Silence', an initiative that focuses on bringing awareness on menstrual hygiene management began its work in Manipur (India) with the onset of April 2018 after having piloted earlier efforts in Imphal West, Bishenpur and Kakchind Districts in April 2015. This year the focus will be on the hill districts of Manipur including Noney, Tamenglong and Ukhrul districts. The reason why we chose Manipur (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manipur) was the need for such an initiative in the region which has seen decades of armed conflict and suffered from the ill effects of insurgency( there are close to 27 militant groups operating in the state), poverty, lack of infrastructure and facilities, unemployment, corruption, disease like HIV/AIDS, rampant drug use and morbidity from over dose, alcoholism and human rights violations.
We are meeting government of Manipur officials, development partners, organizations working on education, agriculture, rural development, cow farming and community leaders from Noney, Tamenglong and Ukhrul districts and partnering with them to organize these-
- Awareness program for school going adolescent girls and mothers
- Awareness program for teachers, non-teaching staff on establishing infrastructure and facilities to meet the needs of menstruating girls and women in the schools and colleges
- Meeting government officials of different ministries and departments and discuss what can be done to address menstrual hygiene in the district
- Meeting with Church leaders to discuss what can be done to spread awareness( the hill districts of Manipur are inhabited by tribal communities and are mostly Christian and Church plays an important role)
The team comprises of me and my two volunteers Pinky Soraisam and Silvia Rimai, my photographer and driver and will be travelling on a jeep from capital Imphal to all these districts Noney, Tamenglong and Ukhrul, then proceeding to remotest villages from the district headquarters assisted by our local partners.The team will be living in Church guest house or with the village headman, interact with villagers and the community, both men and women, go for house to house visits to assess the WASH indicators in the region, deliver messages on menstrual hygiene management in addition to conducting sessions and seminars for girls and women in the district.The program will be conducted in consultation with the district government so that such initiatives are scaled and sustained.