Aditi Gupta is the influential woman behind an incredible initiative, Menstrupedia. Menstrupedia is a startup committed to teaching young girls to explore their unique and complex bodies, with its main focus being on educating them about their periods and other aspects of puberty.
Animated videos and workshops are also a huge part of Menstrupedia. It offers education mainly in the form of comic books with adorable and easy-to-understand illustrations.
Statistics show that more than 23 million girls in India drop out of school every year due to a lack of menstrual hygiene management facilities and about 71% of girls in India reported that they had no knowledge of menstruation before getting their first period.
Has your biology teacher ever called it a day after skipping the most important subject about menstruation in class? India, usually considered a progressive country, is not so progressive when it comes to talking about the female body and menstruation.
We’ve managed to enter the 21st century with hopes of advancement but the gut-wrenching stigma associated with periods still prevails in some parts of India and the world. Women are awfully brainwashed into thinking that periods are impure and sinful.
Any country that associates periods with repulsion and impurity deserves to be called a deteriorating country. The singular reason why we even breathe on this planet is because of a woman’s menstrual cycle, and still, India somehow completely and utterly fails to normalise the normal.
How Aditi Gupta is changing the lives of women and embracing the unfathomable beauty of the female body. “I dream of a future where menstruation is not a curse, not a disease, but a welcoming change in a girl’s life”, says Aditi.
Experiences about Menstruation
“When I got my first period, I was told to keep it a secret from others, even from my father or brothers,” Aditi says at a TEDx event.
Things were so bad that she wasn’t even allowed to sit on a sofa during her periods, she was considered impure and was restricted from touching any object that symbolized religion. “I religiously followed all these restrictive customs for 13 years,” says she.
Aditi grew up in Garhwa, Jharkhand where even buying a sanitary pad was considered disgraceful. This led to her resorting to the use of cloth as an alternative.
The overflow of constraints on a woman when she’s on her period leads to her being unable to process periods as a normal bodily function and instead forces her to associate them with shame and guilt. Growing up in a country like India, it’s become quite the norm to lock her behind bars of restriction, to shut down her innocent and puzzled voice.
Some women go from not being able to step into a temple to being forced to sleep on the floor during their periods. One woman reported that she wasn’t allowed to water her plants let alone touch them, and another reported that she wasn’t allowed to come in front of her brother and father. Just listening to these absurd restrictions makes us want to clench our fists with anger and disbelief.
As for Aditi, she used to follow all the restrictive customs that were imposed upon her until something incredible happened to her that changed her life forever and for the better.
Startup Story of Menstrupedia
In 2009, Aditi met this wonderful man named Tuhin Paul, now her husband and co-founder of Menstrupedia. They were pursuing their post-graduation from the National Institute of Design where they fell in love. “I was at ease discussing periods with him,” says she.
“In order to help me with my cramps, he would go on the internet and learn more about menstruation.” When he shared his findings with her, she realised how little she knew about them. She then went on to do a year-long research about everything related to menstruation.
During her research, she got to know that even the urban population which is supposedly well-informed about menstruation lacked the proper knowledge about it. “We wanted something that would make girls curious and drive them to learn about it.” She came across multiple stories, real stories of women on their periods- funny, embarrassing, heartwarming, and even shameful ones.
She says, “We decided to create a comic book where the cartoon characters would enact these stories and educate girls about menstruation in a fun and engaging way.” This was the beginning of a whole new world for the couple.
Their passion for such a prevalent issue in today’s society fueled them to make a terrific impact on the lives of young girls who are deprived of essential education and awareness about their bodies. She and her husband, Tuhin Paul, co-founded Menstrupedia in 2012, left their jobs in 2013 to invest all of their time in the making of Menstrupedia Comic, and published it in 2014.
Menstrupedia Success Story
“While making the book, we took great care that none of the illustrations are objectionable in any way and that it is culturally sensitive,” says Aditi.
The comic book portrays 3 girls in different pubertal phases of life. One who’s named Pinky, who has yet to get her periods; Jiya, who gets her periods during the development of the story; and Meera, who has already gotten her periods.
These 3 girls are guided by another character named Priya, who educates them in a wholesome and fulfilling way. During the testing of their book, they found that girls were deeply in love with the book and were keen on learning about periods on their own. Even boys showed slight interest. The duo finally released the book in September 2014.
To date, over 25,000 schools and hundreds of NGOs not only in India but across the globe use the Menstrupedia comic book as an educational medium to familiarise thousands of people with menstruation. The book is available in 15 languages, regional and foreign, including Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Punjabi, and even Spanish.
More than 15 schools in different parts of India have incorporated the comic into their school curriculum to spread awareness about menstruation and it is used by more than 1.7 million girls across India. They also appeared on Shark Tank India, and Namita Thapar invested in their product.
Aditi was featured in the achiever’s list of Forbes India 30 under 30 in 2014 but her most substantial achievement is making girls feel safe and comfortable in their own bodies.