Cricket team hits period taboos for six

Cricketers from an Indian Premier League (IPL) team will be sporting the logo of a sanitary pad brand on their jerseys when the tournament kicks off on Sept 19, a step they hope will fight the stigma attached to periods.

The Rajasthan Royals, whose players include England internationals Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer, are the first major sports team to strike a sponsorship deal with a sanitary pad maker, signing up with Indian company Niine.

"This is a taboo topic in India and in many countries around the world. In India, there is a general lack of awareness regarding the issue. Not just in men, but women too," said Mr Jake Lush McCrum, the club's chief operating officer.

For many women in South Asia, especially adolescent girls, menstruation is shameful and uncomfortable.

They are often considered dirty or impure during their periods and suffer discrimination.

For example, they may not be allowed to go to the temple or prepare certain foods.

Of India's 350 million menstruating women and girls, only about eight million use sanitary pads, according to Niine.

Many of the rest use unhygienic methods such as unsuitable scraps of cloth, dirty rags or leaves due to either a lack of awareness, access or affordability.

"This isn't a topic that can be ignored," Mr McCrum told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in e-mailed comments.

Last month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked about menstrual hygiene in his Aug 15 Independence Day speech, drawing widespread praise on social media.

Mr Amar Tulsiyan, founder of Niine and a social entrepreneur, said one of the main aims of the sponsorship deal is to raise awareness among men who often control family expenditure on daily items, including sanitary products.

"A father or brother or son in the family should really acknowledge whether the women in the family are using sanitary napkins or not," he said.

Added Mr Sharat Khemka, co-founder of Niine Hygiene and Personal Care: "The silence and stereotypes that surround menstruation in India is a consequence of years of cultural conditioning and this move is a step towards normalising a conversation about what is a biological process. More importantly, this brings the conversation out in a space largely inhabited by men."

Millions of cricket fans will tune in to watch the IPL, which will be played in the United Arab Emirates from Sept 19 to Nov 10 this year after India decided it could not host it due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Cricket undoubtedly is the most watched sport in the country and provides the perfect platform to address health and drive social change," the Royals said in a statement.

"Rajasthan Royals are poised to be the vehicle that will help educate men through the IPL 2020 season by building not only awareness but also understanding on a grand scale."

In a unique campaign, "Every Run Counts", Niine has pledged to further strengthen the company's commitment to making menstrual hygiene accessible to all.

For every run scored by the Rajasthan Royals team, Niine will provide menstrual hygiene to nine girls.

This campaign was initiated to encourage the players to score more, not just to win matches, but also to make a difference in society.

Fans will be able to see campaign highlights across all social media handles of Niine and Rajasthan Royals where the number of runs scored and the number of girls benefited will be declared.

Thomson Reuters Foundation

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