It’s Normal. Period.

Soumya, a 14-year-old Girl Icon, lives and studies in Kalghattagi, Dharwad, which is a remote village in Karnataka. She belongs to a community where taboos around menstruation are profound. A vast majority of 12 to 15-year-old girls are enrolled in primary school, but once they reach puberty, something distressing happens. The majority of girls drop out of school by the age of 15, due to a lack of basic menstrual sanitation and hygiene.

There’s a long history of menstrual taboos across nearly all cultures, and these continue to manifest in subtle and complex ways. With taboos and superstitions in different countries, even an open discussion in schools is impossible and about 71% of girls in India are unaware of menstruation before their first period. In India, 60% of adolescent girls drop out of school on account of menstruation and about 80% still use homemade pads.

Soumya is a very active and bright participant in the Girl Icon Program, who always stood out due to her tenacity and passion for improving her community. Despite being bound by countless social and cultural norms, she is fortunate to have parents who are literate and understand the importance of education. They support and encourage her to engage in healthy activities that Milaan’s Girl Icon Program brings forth.

Soumya’s participation in the Girl Icon Program encouraged her to develop her own team of 20 peer members with the aim to empower the girls in her community. She conducted meetings, passing on her knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm to numerous other girls who were struggling to get out of their cocoons and stand up for their rights.

Menstruation is one of the oldest and most far-reaching taboos. It is ingrained in our social system to such an extent that bringing a change in perspective towards these old customary beliefs is very hard to achieve. Restrictions are placed on women and girls during menstruation, and the tradition of excluding menstruating women and girls from various activities continues. 

However, hard work and determination can make anything possible. Soumya works toward educating society about menstruation and breaking away from the taboos surrounding it. She believes it is only through creating awareness and speaking about it, without any hesitation, she can destroy the stigma around menstruation. Her social action projects were aimed towards ensuring that an increasing number of girls are able to avoid violations of their rights based on gender inequality. She is fighting to ensure that girls don’t drop out of school when they hit puberty due to social discrimination. Her humble and open-minded approach towards building relationships at the grassroots makes her a very popular leader and an ideal change-maker among her peers.

Soumya is highly motivated by her passion for social justice and aspires to become a Software Engineer, so she can continue helping girls in her community. She is determined to achieve her dreams and continue working for the betterment of society.


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