They covered a distance of 40 kilometres, denoting the average 40 years a woman menstruates for in her life.

These Bengaluru men rode their bikes around the city to break the stigma around menstruationCourtesy Radio Active CR 90.4 MHz/Facebook
news Menstruation Sunday, May 28, 2017 - 19:32

Weekends are meant for sleeping in late, waking up to a lazy brunch and relaxing through the day. But that wasn’t the case for about 150 people who gathered at Town Hall in Bengaluru at 8am on Sunday, with their bikes. All of them – mostly men – had one agenda: to do their bit for breaking the stigma around menstruation.

While the riders were mostly from India Bull Riders Motorcycle Club (IBRMC), they were also joined by four other bike riders’ clubs, including Hop On Gurls and Bikerni. The latter two are women’s rider clubs. A few other participants were individual riders.

The rally was named ‘Breaking the Silence 2017 – Men Take the Lead’ and they rode from Town Hall, to Iskcon in Malleswaram, took the Outer Ring Road to Banashankari and covered JP Nagar, among other areas. The ride ended at BDA Complex in HSR Layout.

The bikers gather at Town Hall

Holding banners and placards with messages against menstrual stigma and taboos, they covered a total of 40.5km. The 40km route was planned to denote the average 40 years that a woman menstruates in her life. Many riders were also accompanied by women from their family, or friends.

Nujo John, a senior rider with IBRMC and a participant from today’s rally tells TNM that many people asked them on traffic signals what the ride was about. “We told them it was to break the silence and stigma around menstruation and they received the concept very positively. We hope that this will create an impact and encourage them to talk more openly about it,” he says.  

The idea behind Breaking the Silence

Our thoughts when someone says ‘men’ and ‘menstruation’ are probably those of uncomfortable conversations or silences. But that changed for men from IBRMC’s Bengaluru chapter a few months ago, when they agreed to organise this bike rally.

But what was the need to organise a bike rally for raise awareness about menstrual stigma with men? Urmila Chanam, a Bengaluru-based social worker who conceptualized the bike rally, says that it’s crucial to include and involve men in women’s issues to have a wholesome dialogue.

Urmila has been educating young girls in remote areas in ten Indian states. She teaches them about the biology of menstruation, menstrual hygiene and how they should talk about it and ask for help. She says that with the recent focus on menstrual hygiene products like sanitary pads, we stand to lose sight of what she believes is a bigger problem – stigma.

“The grassroot reality is not merely pads and their disposal, but the stigma around it. All throughout her life, a girl is made to believe that menstruation makes her impure. The mother thinks that she’ll learn herself and the teachers are uncomfortable, so they also don’t talk about it. For girls who don’t have problematic or painful periods, it may be fine. But for girls who have excruciatingly painful periods and cramps, they have no support system because they cannot talk about it,” she says.

Getting on board

It wasn’t easy convincing a male-majority bikers’ club to ride for the cause of menstruation. Nujo was the one who took the proposal to the four Bengaluru chapter heads in February. “Two of them were up for it, but the other two questioned why we should ride for the cause. They said that a women bikers’ club may be better suited,” Nujo tells TNM.

This was a sentiment echoed by a few other riders as well. However, eventually the two convinced chapter heads managed to get everyone on board and the event was set for May. “I think what also helped was that the push given by the women riders in IBRMC. They insisted that the support of the male riders in the club would matter a lot,” Nujo says.

Urmila stresses that there is a need to involve men in leadership roles as well when it comes to women’s issues. When TNM asked her why they needed to be in leadership roles, she says, “Involvement comes with a demonstration of leadership.”

Riders taking a pledge to speak up against the stigma around menstruation at the end of the journey

“Many times, we may assume that men do not care or understand about these issues, but some of them do. And sometimes, they need a cue in the right direction,” she adds.

Urmila hopes that an initiative like this would encourage men to start the conversation, break the stigma and intervene in their own homes and workplaces.

(Photos courtesy Ch Urmila and Radio Active CR 90.4 MHz via Facebook)

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