Proactive approach needed to debunk myths about women’s health & hygiene: Nikhil Marwaha

At the e4m Health Communication Conference, Marwaha, Director-Strategy and Operations, C Com Digital spoke about the role of marketers in busting myths about menstruation

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: Mar 6, 2020 12:48 PM  | 3 min read
Nikhil Mawaha

At the 1st edition of e4m Health Communication Conference, Nikhil Marwaha, Director-Strategy and Operations, C Com Digital spoke about the various myths around Women Health and Hygiene. During his session, "Debunking The Myths Surrounding Women Health & Hygiene", he highlighted how the pain and cramps that every female goes through during period has been labelled as "normal" in our society.

Talking from a marketing perspective, Marwaha spoke about an instance from the 1990s, which showed how different the attitudes were of advertisers and broadcasters, regarding menstruation and women's health issues, three decades ago. 

"In the sales office of Doordarshan, something unimaginable happened," he began.

"A team of people, marketeers essentially, was leading FMCG brand. They showed an ad to the sales team of Doordarshan. Their reaction? Raised eyebrows, hushed tones, no eye-contact with the marketeers and absolute silence."

The ad, which was the first-ever advertisement for a sanitary napkin brand, was rejected, said Marawaha. 

"Do you know what their reasoning was? ‘Your ad used the term “periods” in the audio and you showed the visual of a sanitary napkin. Definitely, this term and this visual are a taboo in India. They are not cut for the family audience.’” Now imagine, this was in 1990.  Periods were strictly a taboo," he said.

But notions have changed along with the times. He congratulated the efforts of advertisers, brands, marketeers, NGOs and social activists who played a part in destigmatising the "taboo" and reducing some of the mental agonies the stigma has caused women.

"But what about the physical pain?" he asked. That, unfortunately, is still shrouded by stigma. 

He spoke about the campaign which they ran to debunk this myth and to educate women about the disease called dysmenorrhea (painful periods).

"The taboos surrounding menstruation mean that a large majority of adolescent girls are forced to accept an extremely conservative narrative on menstruation, without the freedom to question it. Adolescent girls are expected to silently suffer extreme cramping, pain, nausea, mood swings and other health problems that are wrongly labelled as ‘normal’, thus eliminating their options to seek treatment. As a result, today dysmenorrhea (painful periods) is the most common, yet the most under-reported gynaecological problem in India," highlighted Marwaha.

Throughout his session, Marwaha talked about how period pain is not normal and insisted that it must be spoken out about.

To fight against this taboo, C Com came up with a campaign called #WhySufferSilently which managed to reach over 81 lakh people through social media platforms. The campaign was done by C Com Digital in collaboration with Blue Cross Laboratories. Interestingly, their campaign registered a notable response on YouTube and garnered over 1.1 million views. C Com Digital was able to reach out to 136 colleges and 100 organisations.

"Given the fact that there is a lack of knowledge about dysmenorrhea and the factors surrounding the condition, a more proactive approach is required to debunk such serious myths surrounding women health and hygiene, "he said.

To conclude, he tweaked a line from the 1990s song "Urvashi" in the Prabhudeva starrer Hum Se Hain Muqabla. The words, although said in a completely different context, rings true in this case.  "Bhalai Kabhi Aurato Ki, Kranti Ke Bina Nahi Hogi" which implies that betterment of women is not possible without a revolution.

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