By Annie Banerji
NEW DELHI, Sept 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Cricketers from an Indian Premier League team will be sporting the logo of a sanitary pad brand on their jerseys when the tournament kicks off on Saturday, a step they hope will fight stigma around 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 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 8 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," McCrum told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in emailed 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.
Amar Tulsiyan, founder of Niine and a social entrepreneur, said one of the main aims of the sponsorship deal was to raise awareness among men who often control family expenditure on everyday 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 by phone.
Millions of cricket fans will tune in to watch the Indian Premier League, 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 coronavirus pandemic.
India is one of the countries worst-hit by COVID-19, with nearly 4.9 million confirmed cases and 80,000 deaths.
(Reporting by Annie Banerji @anniebanerji, Editing by Helen Popper; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)