BREAKING THE SILENCE WORLDWIDE FOUNDATION

Menstrual Hygiene Management| Family Planning| Women Empowerment| Digital Inclusion| Women Networks

 

Breaking the Silence Worldwide Foundation is an NGO registered under Section 8 of the Company’s Act registration number 125284 and based in Bengaluru in Karnataka with its regional office in Imphal, Manipur (India). Breaking the Silence Worldwide Foundation is an international program on menstrual hygiene management, family planning, women empowerment, digital inclusion and building and linking women networks, and functions in different parts of India while fast expanding to Asian and African countries.

 

Since 2014, it has been campaigning on menstrual health and women’s rights, building women’s leadership and empowerment, advocating for use of digital technology, digital inclusion of women to expedite gender equality and impact social change, and building communities that are supportive to the needs and aspirations of girls and women.

 

Awarded as The Best Campaign in 2014-15 at the UNFPA National Laadli Media and Advertising Awards held in Mumbai, Maharashtra, Breaking the Silence has worked in a mission mode to end myths, taboos and stigma associated with menstruation and raising awareness on menstruation as a natural and life-giving biological phenomenon so that girls and women can manage their menstruation hygienically with privacy and dignity.

The initiative on menstrual hygiene management functions on ground in the remotest villages and communities often ‘left behind’, working to improve public health systems to better respond to the needs of menstruating girls and women and utilising media platforms, print, radio and social media, to scale its observations, experiences and learnings and communicate its recommendations to MHM programs run by government of India, development partners, NGOs and other stakeholders.

Our guiding principle is to bring social change through sensitization and behaviour change among the mass. We are convinced that an informed girl transitions into an empowered woman who becomes an inspiration for other women in her community and an informed boy transitions into an empathetic and supportive partner, colleague, sibling or citizen who plays a significant role in ensuring menstrual hygiene management in homes, schools and colleges, workplaces, public places and society at large. Our sensitization efforts target all the genders for the expected outcome mentioned above. Our aim is to build a better world for girls and women where menstruation no longer acts as a barrier to achieve life aspirations, be it education, career or other opportunities of growth and development. The impact that we envision is a society where traditions and beliefs on menstruation or even ignorance do not cause desperation or illness in girls and women.

 
 
 

Our goals do not end at menstrual health and the impact we want to create:

  • The ability of girls and women to exercise the power of their voice (opinion and choice) and make themselves be heard.
  • A society which recognizes women’s leadership in social, economic and political spheres.
  • Girls and women become the primary stakeholder in their health, education, livelihood and economic growth.
  • Women develop multiple safety net for themselves to rely on for their safety, livelihood or business and well- being.
 
What is the menstrual hygiene management crisis in India? Read more...
  • Stigma, culture of silence and lack of information
  • Lack of access to sanitary napkins and menstrual absorbents
  • Absence of support from family
  • Lack of access to water and sanitation facilities
  • Lack of safe disposal facilities
 
Different places…. same story

‘The day I saw fresh blood in my underpants and clothes with no idea from where it had come, I believed I was dying.’ - Neelam, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh

‘My mother told me to keep it a secret when I first started bleeding. We don’t talk about it (menstruation) at all!’ -Radha, Wardha, Maharashtra

‘I am told that if I touch utensils, clothes, food items, items used in worship, flowers and plants, all of these items get polluted. Does that mean I am an untouchable when I bleed?’ -Gul, Chandigarh, Punjab

‘My mother tells me to stay home during my periods; my teacher scolds me for absence. Whose instruction should I follow? I mostly avoid school to keep peace at home and to avoid inconvenience because girls have no separate toilets there.’ – Payal, Patran, Punjab

‘I suffer from acute itching. I don’t know why and what can make me feel better?’ – Echan, Imphal, Manipur

‘I have 3 children but I still can’t answer your question on why women have periods.’ -Mala, Kuppum, Andhra Pradesh

A Holistic Approach: 3 Prongs of Menstrual Hygiene Management
 

A global grassroots and field-based initiative focussing on villages, rural regions and isolated or marginalized communities employs a three-prong holistic approach to address menstrual hygiene management-

  • Breaking the silence: Awareness and normalizing menstruation.
  • Managing menstruation hygienically: Access to sanitary products and WASH facilities
    • Different sanitary products: accessibility, availability and affordability
    • WASH facilities and infrastructure like toilets, water and soap.
  • Disposal: Safe and environment friendly disposal and waste management systems for used sanitary waste.
 
Basket of Sanitary Products: Offering Informed Choice

Breaking the Silence while not promoting any particular type of sanitary material over the other, focusses on giving accurate information on the entire range of sanitary products so that girls and women can make an informed choice. Disposal sanitary napkins of different varieties in the market, reusable cloth- based pads, menstrual cups, tampons, biodegradable and eco-friendly sanitary napkins are discussed along with the cotton cloth that was the original choice of our grandmothers.

 

Our Impact since 2014
Sensitized 18,245 individuals

Adolescent girls, boys, women, men, different disability groups, women jail inmates and jail staff, doctors and nurses, army wives and daughters, bike club members, journalists, ASHA, Anganwadi workers and other frontline workers, school and education institution teachers, caregivers and non-teaching staff, Gram Panchayat, Village Development Authority members, local clubs, Church staff, NGOs working with girls, women, on health, education, livelihoods or sanitation, government representatives and government line departments.

India, Asia and Africa

India: Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, Delhi, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya

Asia: Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, Pakistan, Myanmar Africa: Uganda, Nigeria.

Insurgency inflicted rural regions in north-eastern India

Manipur and Assam

Insurgency inflicted rural regions in north-eastern India

Manipur and Assam

Distributed 13,000 sanitary napkin packs and 400 menstrual cups to girls and women in rural parts
Built men’s leadership in advocating for stigma free menstruation

“Men Take Lead Ride” bike rally on International Menstrual Hygiene Day

Social Media Campaign For 7 Years

Discussions, news, policy related developments, information on menstrual health and hygiene and best practices from around the world shared with hundreds of thousands of netizens globally. United women’s voices globally on menstrual hygiene using social media to discuss, seek solutions, and replace shame with pride.

Print & Broadcasting Media For 5 Years

Advocacy on menstrual hygiene management and gender through newspaper articles, op-eds, news reports and programs on community radio station at national and regional levels. An article on government negligence in a village in Manipur resulting in inhabitants living with no electricity for 20 years caught the attention of the government and electricity was installed by the government of Manipur in the isolated village in the mountains.

Global networks and partnerships

Women Economic Forum, World Pulse, Voices of Women Worldwide, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), MH Day Secretariat, MH Alliance India, Menstrual Health Hub, Star of Hope Transformation Centre, Nigeria, Zephaniah Free Education, Pakistan, Integrated Regional Support Program (IRSP), Pakistan.

Awards and recognition

World Pulse Spirit Awards for Sisterhood (2019), Amelia Earhart Women Have Wings Courage Awards (2018), Voices of Our Future Awards (2016), HDFC Mastercard Celebrate Heroes Award (2016), Vodafone Women of Pure Wonder (2016), Women Economic Forum Iconic Woman Award (2017), Fierce Indian Vagina Warrior from Youth Ki Awaaz. Teresa Rehman in her book “Mothers of Manipur” and Chris Bobel, Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston in her book, “The Managed Body: Developing Girls and Menstrual Health in the Global South” wrote about Breaking the Silence’s work. WASH United launched an animation depicting the work of Breaking the Silence on MH Day 28th May 2018.

Our Programs

SCHOOL AWARENESS PROGRAM

Sensitization workshops are conducted in schools for adolescent girls and boys separately, male and female teachers, non-teaching staff and school management. Special efforts are made to ensure that separate and functional toilets for school girls and women staff with water, soap, covered dust bins in toilets are available. Teacher’s role in disseminating information on menstruation and hygiene aspect, need for providing empathy to menstruating girls and accommodating their needs, availability of sanitary materials in school in case of emergencies, formation of school MHM committee comprising of representatives of students and teachers to manage menstruation related needs in the school and to identify school drop-outs and make targeted attempts to link them to education again are the outcomes of the school awareness program resulting in MHM Model Schools.

 
MHM Model School will have:
  • a management sensitive to the needs of menstruating girls and staff and girl/women friendly policies.
  • sensitization on menstruation imparted in classes to both boys and girls.
  • functional and separate toilets with water, soap and dust bin for girls and women.
  • sanitary napkins and cloth readily available for use by students or female teachers or staff in case of emergencies.
  • notice board or painted walls with menstrual hygiene related information.
  • a school level mechanism for safe and environment friendly disposal of used sanitary pads like deep burial, compost pit or segregation of sanitary material to be handed over to the waste pickers or municipality sanitation workers.
 
 

Teachers: male and female, receive training on menstrual hygiene management, their role in sensitization of students and how to conduct MHM classes

MEN TAKE LEAD RIDE : WORKING WITH MEN Read More...

Men Take Lead Ride is a 40-km long bullet bike rally signifying the 40 years a woman menstruates in her lifetime and is organised by Breaking the Silence Worldwide Foundation, India Bull Riders, a leading pan India bullet bikers club and Radio Active Community Radio 90.4 MHz to mark the International Menstrual Hygiene Day 28th May every year in Bangalore (Karnataka) and Kolkata (West Bengal) with an aim to end stigma and isolation of menstruating girls and women by involving men and building men’s leadership to advocate for men’s role in menstrual hygiene management. Close to 250 bikers participate in the ride which begins with an opening ceremony, flag-off and concludes with oath- taking by men to never isolate girls or women during menstruation and in the incidence of its occurrence, to intervene and sensitize others.

Men Take Lead Ride was recognized as one of the leading events happening in the world on MH Day by WASH United, the organizer of Menstrual Hygiene Day celebrations; was written about in the internationally acclaimed book ‘The Managed Body: Developing Girls and Menstrual Health in the Global South’ by Chris Bobel as a unique and important approach to involve men to attain menstrual hygiene management and acknowledged as the way forward in MHM programming in India at the National Consultation ‘Pushing the Boundaries on MHM Dialogue’ and National Media Sensitization Workshop organised by MH Alliance India at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.

 

“We ride because during periods, girls and women are pushed out of the kitchen and away from food items.”

“We ride because during periods girls and women are made to not interact with or touch others.”

“We ride because the stigma and taboos attached with menstruation erode human rights and take away the dignity and self-respect of girls and women and affect their safety.”

“We ride to call for societal change. We ride because together we can change the way women experience menstruation stigma and shame.”

 

WORKING WITH THE GOVERNMENT
 

Chief Minister of Manipur state (India) Mr.N. Biren Singh launching Breaking the Silence 2018 Annual Report.

We conduct on-site field visits and scoping exercise through interactions with multiple stakeholders including doctors, nurses, primary health center teams, medical stores, girls and women, teachers, school management including headmasters, waste collectors, municipality workers and media personnel to assess water, sanitation, hygiene and waste management infrastructure and facilities in the region. The findings in the form of reports are shared with the government line departments at district and state level or through newspaper articles carrying inputs on priority needs of girls and women and followed by discussions

Honourable Governor Mrs.Najma Heptulla endorsing Breaking the Silence Worldwide Foundation work on menstrual health.

 

on strengthening current government programs or starting new initiatives to address menstrual hygiene management in the population. Sensitization of government officials and on going efforts to facilitate interdepartmental collaboration on menstrual health are the areas we work on with the government.

 
 

Our Nigeria partner, honourable Olugbenga Akogun Omole, Member representing Akoko South West 1 constituency in Ondo State, Nigeria was awarded the ‘Legislator of the Year and Emerging Leader’ by the Hero Magazine International and Ondo State Outstanding Leadership Award Platform in 2019 for his work on menstrual hygiene management in partnership with Breaking the Silence Worldwide Foundation.

OUR GLOBAL PROGRAM

Women Networks| Digital inclusion| Women empowerment

Our major global program is with World Pulse, the world’s largest social network of women leaders from across 190 countries through which we run a worldwide digital action campaign on menstrual hygiene and human rights of menstruating girls and women , scale our learnings to the international community, provide technical expertise and have partnerships with programs led by women in other countries. Through our trainings and sensitization programs in villages across India and other countries, it has been a consistent effort to implement the mission of World Pulse on ground to lift up girls and women, give confidence to speak out for what she believes in, to connect women and build a sisterhood, instil faith that when women come together, they become a powerful force to influence change and to use technology and be passionate about making a difference. World Pulse is known for its campaigns that crowd source ideas, opinions, solutions from around the globe and delivers them to decision makers thus influencing policy framework. Through World Pulse, Breaking the Silence is trying to make sure that girls and women from the most marginalised and vulnerable segments are not left behind out of essential information, education and services related to their health.

 
 

We organise training sessions on digital skills and using technology in social development programming like the Nepal National MHM Training of Trainers in Nagarkot and International Women’s Day Program on How Internet Changes Lives: The World Pulse Edge in partnership with Radio Active 90.4 MHz offering dual medium interface of digital media and community radio. Several trainings on digital skills have been conducted for various women groups and communities to enable them to use their mobiles, laptops and the internet to improve their efficiency and opportunities in work and personal lives.

 

“Urmila Chanam (Founder) is a global force using technology to activate women across borders, faith, ethnicity, and language to end the stigma of menstruation, bringing a new dawn in women’s worldwide well-being and power.”

– Jensine Larsen, Founder and CEO, World Pulse, Portland, USA.

 
 
 

We have begun our partnership on menstrual hygiene management with Integrated Regional Support Program (IRSP), Pakistan giving technical assistance to their programs, convergence on digital platform awareness building and cross-learning on Water-Sanitation-Hygiene space.

 

“Urmila Chanam is revolutionizing the development sector by bringing the taboo of menstrual hygiene management to the limelight globally and influencing the policy, strategies and plans in South Asia. Her contribution is remarkable in every field for neglected and traumatized segments of society.”

- Syed Shah Nasir Khisro, Executive Director, Integrated Regional Support Program, Pakistan.


Voices of Women Worldwide (VOWW) is our knowledge and global advocacy partner on menstrual hygiene management and family planning awareness. “Collaboration is the importance of empowerment for young women. Removing powerlessness to create practical positive steps in managing periods. Voices of Women Worldwide and Breaking the Silence - we addressed together our efforts in discussion. Together, we make a difference.”

- Sharon Mather, Co-Founder, Voices of Women Worldwide (VOWW)

ADVOCACY
 
 

We have actively advocated on national and international platforms calling for government’s action on menstrual hygiene education so that no girl or woman is ‘left behind’ because of menstruation, for more investment in terms of awareness building, ensuring availability, affordability and accessibility of range of menstrual products, functional and period -friendly toilets and disposal mechanisms. The harmful effects of myths, taboos and stigma associated with menstruation on girl/women’s education, nutrition, safety, overall growth and development, morbidity, and mental health and the need for laws and policies to safegaurd the human rights of menstruating girls and women have been the key areas of our global advocacy.

 

Some of the platforms and our audience are mentioned here-

Uganda National MHM Conference organised by Network for Water and Sanitation Uganda in Kampala, 2014, 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence International Conference organised by Gender Harmony and Women’s UN Reporting network(WUNRN) in Jakarta, Indonesia in 2015, International Youth NGOs Summit(IYONS) 2015 in Chennai, Sanitation Action Summit, 2016 organised by Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) in Mumbai, Jagriti Yatra in 2016 Bangalore, Women Economic Forum in New Delhi 2017, Pushing Boundaries on MHM Dialogue in 2017 New Delhi, , Rotary Club (Bangalore East) Meet 2017, Nepal International Training of Trainers on MHM, Nagarkot 2017, Indian Law Conclave in New Delhi 2018, Dialogue Interactive, 2018 Bangalore, Sambhashane: The Bengaluru Dialogues of Citizens and Community Media in 2018 in Bangalore, Assam State Level Consultation on MHM in Guwahati in 2018, National Media Workshop on MHM organised by MH Alliance India in 2018, Women Orbiting for Women (WOW) Meeting in 2018, 7th Asia-Pacific Youth for Human Rights Summit 2019 in Taiwan, International Women’s Day celebrations every year, International menstrual Hygiene Day every year, One Billion Rising, Women’s Earth Alliance- United Religions Initiative’s Ripple Academy, Women in Corporate Awards (WICA) 2019, Spunky Indian Magazine Launch from Banani Vista, Bengaluru 2019.

 

We offer seminar, webinar, discussion/session, presentation, public talk, workshop, training of trainers, door-to-door outreach in rural regions, MHM laboratory in a festival/conference/event, state/district level campaign and technical assistance to NGOs and organizations.

CONTACT US

Head Office: Shivajinagar, Bangalore 560001, Karnataka

Regional Office: Chanam Pukhri Mapal, P.O Singjamei, Imphal 795008, Manipur

E-mail: urmilabtswf@gmail.com