NEW DELHI — Even as Jamia Millia Islamia University took down sanitary napkins that were posted all over the college campus as part of a protest against sexism, the student-run movement for gender equality has spread to other parts of Delhi, and even elicited a reaction from the original creator of the campaign started in Germany.
Elonë Kastratia, the founder of #PadsAgainstSexism Campaign, sent a short video message to students of Jamia Millia Islamia in solidarity on Sunday.
"Hello Jamia. This is Elona from Germany. I am happy to hear that my message went even to your university in Delhi," she said in the video message. "I am even more happy that there are people like you that help me spread this message. Raise your voice against sexism, girls and boys. Also show solidarity and help each other. Thanks a lot to you all."
The campaign is aimed to tackle sexism in India, where women are routinely physically and mentally assaulted. The use of sanitary napkins to spread the message has a shock-value, as menstruation is a taboo subject for public discussion.
Security guards in Jamia have started taking down the pads, which were posted across the campus with messages against sexism printed on them. However, students behind the protest said that they had not taken permission from the college before placing the sanitary napkins across campus, and the college security was just following rules and regulations by taking these down.
Meanwhile the campaign has already spread to other colleges in the capital, and the students behind the movement have taken to other public spaces to spread awareness.
Students behind the campaign — who include both men and women — have so far chosen to remain anonymous. One of the main organisers behind the initiative explained that they weren't initially sure what would be the reaction to the campaign, and did not want anyone to think they were doing it to call attention to themselves instead of the issue of sexism.
"We are hoping people in India will start talking about menstruation in a way that doesn't see it as dirty," said the student. "We want to remove the stigma attached to it." The students are reaching out to medical store owners to ask them not to immediately wrap sanitary pads in black and brown bags, as is usual in India, so as to hide these in public.
The campaign also tackles prevailing issues of rape in India. "We hope that with the popularity (of the campaign) we can maybe find a way to extend the school curriculum to include sex education as well as gender equality education for kids," said one of the organisers. "What may seem like it's something small is actually a huge factor in how our society is nowhere near being equal for both sexes."