Sanjay Mathrani 

Smashing stereotypes, breaking taboos and challenging stigma – this story takes you to Kotri, Sindh.

Ayesha Ameen hailing from Kotri (born and brought up there). She has Masters in Social Policy from the University of Pennsylvania on Fulbright Scholarship. And she is also a Ugrad alum from 2013. She is working in the community for around 9 years in women’s rights, mostly in health, economic empowerment, and education.

She founded Baithak – Challenging Taboos that primarily works for sexual and reproductive health and rights of women in Hyderabad and Jamshoro.

When asked she expressed that ‘we educate women on menstrual hygiene management, family planning, and domestic violence, and also conduct domestic violence trainings for social activists, community actors, and lady health workers to strengthen the support system for DV survivors.’

During this pandemic, she has been delivering menstrual hygiene kits to women who have lost access to menstrual products and now we have partnered with a UK-based social enterprise to extended support to domestic violence survivors.

While taking with PakVoices, she emphasized that “basically we work for menstrual hygiene management and during this pandemic, we were very concerned about how women especially in low-income communities are managing their menstruation.”

Since a lot of people have lost their income/jobs and because menstrual products are not considered a necessity, many women are losing access to menstrual products as they can’t afford them.

Women also have almost zero mobility due to lock-down so they can’t go out to buy sanitary pads and given the stigma surrounding menstruation, its very challenging for them to ask male members in their families to get them sanitary pads. Many small shops in local neighborhoods are also running short on sanitary pads so that’s a barrier too.

In response to this situation, she is distributing menstrual hygiene kits to women in low income communities which has supplies that will last them for at least 3 months. We will now be distributing these kits to women in shelter houses as well.

When asked about the feedback from community, she further added that, there has been a mixed response. Some people have been very supportive because they understand the importance of the cause.

However , “I have often faced criticism because given the conservative nature of the communities, its considered inappropriate to openly talk about these issues.”

They have also been blamed to corrupt minds of women or bringing a western agenda by talking about taboo topics.

People always compare that they are a different society so shouldn’t be speaking about Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) or menstruation.

“I have also been told that I speak about these issues because I have studied from the U.S. All kinds of perceptions exist and its a part of working in the development sector.” She concluded.