Students & Campus
03 March 2022

Deconstructing the Menstruation Taboo and Gaining in Gender Equality

Deane de Menezes is a master student in Development Studies. She founded Red Is the New Green, a registered non-profit in India to help school-age girls overcome the deep-seeded stigma attached to menstruation and create affordable access to period products and waste disposal solutions. 

In 2016, after a personal experience of not having access to sanitary napkins at my workplace, I developed a passionate interest in public health and menstrual hygiene in particular. This experience was the foundation of my initiative, Red Is the New Green (RING). 

I selected two schools in Mumbai to launch RING, which had low girl attendance due to the shame they felt about their own menstrual health. Within three months of introducing the programme, we saw the attendance rate improve by 20-25%. Girls who were shy and initially reluctant to participate in the sessions began to open up after I shared my own experiences. After partnering with the Aga Khan Development Network we conducted sessions across 150 schools and in a year, we were able to reach 50,000 students in Mumbai. It also led to global recognition, like the ‘Forbes 30 under 30 Asia’ and the ‘Queen’s Young Leader Award’, given by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. 

These commendations were validating for me but also underscored the fact that more needed to be done; I needed to grow as a leader, equipped with a strong education and practical skills. The Masters in Development Studies at the Geneva Graduate Institute was a perfect fit for me as it helped me enhance my understanding of development at a national and international level. In addition, my studies here will give me the chance to learn more about reproductive health inequalities through an exchange at the University of Ghana, which has a reputed school of Public Health (SPH).

The Graduate Institute also gives students a platform to grow and showcase their skills, which was how I was invited by the Gender Centre to participate in a round table discussion on ? 'Menstruation: Sharing Experiences from Africa and Asia' with highly experienced leaders from the Global Health Centre, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Canton of Geneva. This unparalleled exchange of ideas and solutions about menstrual health on a global scale is something I would not have had a chance to be a part of had I not decided to embark on this journey in Geneva.

Of the challenges the next generation will face amidst a pandemic and global unrest, I hope to ensure that the ‘problem’ of menstruation and menstrual hygiene is no longer on the list. My experiences thus far, enhanced with an opportunity to study here at the Graduate Institute and abroad will aid me as I work towards my goal of eliminating the menstrual stigma in an inclusive and sustainable way on a global scale.