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Dr. Aaqfeen Nisar – Breaking Menstrual Taboos in Jammu & Kashmir

Even in the 21st century, there has not been any prominent change in people’s attitudes towards menstruation. People don’t wish to talk about it openly because they believe it’s not socially accepted.

Since the olden times, women are exposed to various ill measures when dealing with their menstrual cycle. There are many women in the far-flung areas who still use dry leaves, rags or other unclean materials that could pose a threat to their lives. Unfortunately, these sorts of cases are not only found in the rural areas but in urban places too.

Yet things are starting to change. Meet Dr. Aaqfeen Nisar, a postgraduate from Government Medical College, Srinagar; who has made it her mission to break the taboo surrounding menstruation and empower women.

While practicing her profession she came across an alarming issue. She observed that most of the adolescent girls used ragged and used cloth instead of sanitary napkins during their periods.

She said that in the last one year, she has identified many young adolescent girls who suffered from different menstrual-related ailments and most of them were affected by Reproductive Tract Infection due to the usage of worn-out cloth.

Dr. Aaqfeen, being true and loyal to her profession, wanted to help them out. So she started her initiative by conducting a survey where she could track the cause for this issue. She conducted one-on-one interviews and asked for their personal reasons for not using the sanitary napkins. Later she arrived at the two main reasons why they pulled themselves back from using pads and that was: lack of awareness and economic conditions. Besides, it was the misleading information imparted by their own mothers that prevented them from maintaining menstrual hygiene. They were told by their mothers that sanitary napkins would lead to infertility.

After knowing the ground reality, Dr. Aaqfeen Nisar made it her mission to change the mindset of people. So she started off a crowdfunding campaign titled “Panen Fiker” which means “to take care of ourselves”. “It is a project in social marketing to enhance the use of sanitary pads amongst the adolescent girls.” she said.

Her next step was to provide the sanitary pads at a subsidized value (to curb the economic factor). But she was uncertain whether her campaign would work or not because of the social taboo that prevailed.

However, when the campaign started; she gained a positive response from the girls after using the sanitary pads.

“I could have provided these sanitary pads free of cost but I preferred giving them on subsidized rates,” Aaqfeen said. “I decided to counsel them that these pads would be provided to them on cheaper rates. It clicked. ”

Now the campaign is gaining momentum and is gaining much support from the society. But there is one more question that haunts Dr. Aafqeen. If this is the condition of the girls who are living in the cities of Kashmir, what would be the plight of the girls who are living in the far flung areas of Kashmir?

So in order to extend a helping hand, she is planning to launch a website and ask people to contribute to help out the girls in the remote areas of Kashmir. She would also visit these remote locations to spread awareness there. So let’s hope for the best and keep our fingers crossed that her NGO could bring about a meaningful change in the lives of young girls facing this stigma.

Dr. Aaqfeen Nisar is truly an inspiration for women. In the 21st century, where menstruation is still not openly talked about, she came out like a savior lending a helping hand for many young girls in Jammu And Kashmir.