• Let’s normalise talking about periods 

Despite the majority of the Sri Lankan population being persons who experience periods, Sri Lanka is still playing catch up when it comes to the concept of menstruation.

Due to numerous cultural concerns and the general discomfort expressed by the public, the concept of menstruation is highly stigmatised, fostering a taboo outlook on the topic of reproductive health.

With this in mind, the Rotaract Club of Informatics Institute of Technology (RACIIT) initiated Project “WeCan” focusing on the importance of menstrual hygiene and health. With the first iteration of the project coming to a close with resounding success, RACIIT has rehashed the project for the second consecutive year.

Speaking to RACIIT Community Service Director and Head of Project “WeCan” 2021 Rtr. Tihara Jayawickrama, she shared that the first time around, they were able to reach a lot of young persons in the rural parts of the island who could truly benefit from exposure to knowledge on reproductive health, hygiene, and menstrual products.

She shared that similar to last year, they hope to donate reusable pads to school students who may have trouble gaining regular access to commercial sanitary napkins. In addition to the donations, the project also carries out awareness sessions with these students, educating them on the importance of menstrual health, in an effort to further destigmatise the topic of menstruation and encouraging them to have conversations and openly discuss reproductive health.

Jayawickrama shared: “We hope to raise awareness on reproductive health, specifically menstruation, and the side effects that could be caused due to a lack of knowledge in this area,” adding: “We further aim to promote the usage of reusable menstrual products in our society.” Moreover, she shared that Project “WeCan” aims to not only educate men and women on menstrual health and hygiene, but also to focus on gender inequality, disease prevention, and promoting reusable menstrual products.

She provided that the project will be carried out in three phases.

Firstly, bringing about awareness on menstruation, through awareness sessions about menstruation and reusable menstrual products, conducted by doctors and advocates to speak about menstruation and to solve the common questions most women have. They hope to draw attention to reusable products like menstrual cups and other reusable products including pads and underwear, which could be used for a long time period of six months to 10 years if used properly.

Secondly, the project will carry out awareness sessions in schools in the rural areas of the country. Jayawickrama shared that in 2020, through the project, they were able to reach over 700 students and this year, they plan to reach out to over 1,000 students.  As a final stage of this second phase, they intend on constructing five female-friendly washrooms for underprivileged schools, making their environment more women-friendly, as it is mandatory to have safe sanitary disposal methods to ensure good hygiene especially in women’s washrooms.

Finally, they hope to lend a hand in combating period poverty in Sri Lanka with their planned donation of reusable menstrual products to 100 young women in rural underprivileged areas. She added that the donations will be carried out in four rural areas, where 25 young women from each area will receive reusable menstrual products. She said that the end goal here is to combat period poverty in the country by giving access to sanitary products to all women despite their social status.

Project “WeCan” has a primary focus on teenagers, as most young girls do not attend school during their periods, while others use different substitute sanitary practices which are often unhealthy and can lead to more harmful results.

The project hopes to encourage young women to speak freely about their concerns about reproductive health and to hopefully one day be able to educate another on its importance.

To donate to Project “WeCan” contact:

President 2021/22 Rtr. Induwara Mapalagama – 77 369 7779 

Secretary 2021/22 Rtr. Umeshaa Sivakumar – 77 703 1866 

Community Service Director Rtr. Nithila Ariyapperuma – 72 146 1119 

Community Service Director Rtr. Tihara Jayawickrama – 76 919 2259 

Community Service Director Rtr. Yasiru Jayatissa – 71 687 7729