Think about school and the one thing that instantly comes to mind is answering the roll call. That your name is in a school attendance register makes you feel like you’re part of something larger. Roll call time may seem like a routine exercise that marks the beginning of a typical school day, but it is in fact a symbol of hope and optimism. Behind every ‘Present’ that you hear during the daily attendance is a student who is eager to learn new things and build a bright future. That explains why children are always so excited during roll call time.
12-year-old Akanksha (named changed on request) from Mumbai says, “I love attending school. I look forward to roll call time every day as it sets the tone for the rest of the day. Every attendance session is a reminder of the many wonders of education and knowledge.”
While this is Akanksha’s happy story, crores of other school-going girls across India are not as fortunate.
Their dreams are cut short and they are unable to realise their full potential. That’s because, on an annual basis, 2.3 crore girls are compelled to leave school at the onset of puberty due to lack of period education and protection.
In India, periods are still a taboo topic. Studies show that as many as 71 percent adolescent girls know nothing about periods till they experience it themselves. They are unaware of good hygiene practices to manage periods. This severely impacts their confidence and self-esteem, forcing 2.3 crore girls to permanently stop attending school every single year.
We just saw how lack of period education and protection makes it impossible for several young girls to complete their education. This is where #KeepGirlsInSchool makes all the difference.
Commenting on the importance of period education, Poonam Sharma, principal of Sharda Sarvhitkari Model Sr Secondary School, Chandigarh, says, “When young girls who don’t know anything about menstruation, get their first periods, they panic or start crying. To avoid this, it’s essential to impart period education. It’s important to tell them that periods are normal and not something to be ashamed or afraid of. More importantly, they should know that periods are certainly not something you should be missing school for.”
#KeepGirlsInSchool is now in its second edition. Whisper has partnered with UNESCO to integrate period education as a module in school curriculum. Before we tell you more, watch this video.
The film shows you how something as natural as periods are stopping young girls from completing their education, thus depriving them of a promising future.
It’s only when girls stay in school will they be able to forge ahead in life and realise their dreams. That’s exactly what Whisper and UNESCO are doing with #KeepGirlsInSchool.
Lauding Whisper on their campaign, Poonam says, “Whisper is doing a wonderful job and we are thankful to them. Whisper visits schools, screens documentaries and equips girls with education and products to manage their periods. Often, even mothers hesitate when it comes to talking to their daughters about periods. When Whisper conducts such workshops in schools, the children go home and tell their mothers about it. This, in turn, inspires mothers to have an open conversation about periods with their daughters.”
Poonam has first-hand witnessed the impact of Whisper’s initiatives in her own school. She says that after the brand conducted workshops in her school there was a noticeable change in the behaviour of her students. They felt confident enough to speak about their own period experiences. Talking about Whisper’s Mother Daughter Menstrual Hygiene Awareness Program, Poonam says that the initiative has been instrumental in empowering and equipping young girls in managing their periods.
Ushering change, one girl at a time
What Whisper is doing is impacting the lives of crores of young girls across India and the numbers speak for themselves. So far, 4 crore girls have learnt about periods and how to manage them, thanks to the brand’s Mother Daughter Menstrual Hygiene Awareness Program. Going ahead too, Whisper has pledged to provide period education and protection to another 2.5 crore girls.
#KeepGirlsInSchool will help empower 90 lakh young girls to stay in school so they can continue chasing their dreams. The campaign has already generated awareness among 5.5 crore people. That’s not all. Whisper’s joint initiative with UNESCO aimed at including period education as part of the academic curriculum has seen support from 10 lakh people across the country.
In a country such as India where a culture of silence surrounds the topic of periods, #KeepGirlsInSchool is ushering change, one young girl at a time. The campaign plays a key role in ensuring that no girl suddenly stops answering the roll call. Instead, she will continue to stay in school and go on to make her dreams a reality.
(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)