In the workshops, the team members of AWAG gave a brief orientation about the organisation followed by session on awareness of domestic violence and primary activities that AWAG is involved in. Thereafter, the main focus of the workshops was on awareness of menstrual health and hygiene. The team explained the side effects of not maintaining appropriate hygiene during menstruation, emphasising the importance of using appropriate underwear and sanitary towels. AWAG staff highlighted ‘myths’ surrounding menstruation, educating women about the topic and against the blind faith that many local women have become accustomed to.
Comments from the workshops:
Many girls said that during their periods they experience severe pain in the uterus because of which they cannot concentrate on studies.
Girls in Vadnagar School commented that many times their periods begin during school time and their uniforms and clothes get spoiled. They feel embarrassed and ashamed and attending school after this becomes impossible.
The teachers in the school said to AWAG's team members that every Wednesday the school provides free-of-cost iron tablets to girls but they do not consume them. The teachers wanted the team members to explain the girls about the importance of the tablets.
Girls said that they were not aware of how not maintaining hygiene during menstruation can lead to deadly cancerous conditions such as skin cancer, breast cancer, cancer of urinary track and cervical cancer.
The girls mentioned that they were excited to use sanitary napkins and switch to better hygiene options.
The schools in villages do not provide enough support and information on menstruation and menstrual health. The girls were therefore very happy to learn new concepts.
Most women and girls in the village had already heard about AWAG and its work, hence they showed keen interest in the awareness meeting.
AWAG’s team concluded that convincing village women to use sanitary napkins and panties and help support them in learning about hygiene is a slow and continued process. There is a clear need for this in the villages.
By Divya Madhusudhan - Communications and Fundraising Officer
For the months of November and December, AWAG undertook health and sanitation awareness workshops in the following 12 villages of Radhanpur district, Gujarat, India. A total of 466 adolescent girls attended the workshop in the below mentioned villages -
Name of the village Number of girls attended per village
1) Cherganj 29
2) Dharvadi 54
3) Bhadiya 43
4) Kamalpur 46
5) Badalpura 41
6) Nanapura 21
7) Jetalpura 28
8) Dev 31
9) Palali 30
10) Bilot 45
11) Gotarka 48
12) Nalanda 50
Key objectives of the workshop
Women health, women reproductive system, monthly menstruation cycle
Importance of hygiene
Use and disposal of sanitary towels
In the workshops, the team members of AWAG gave a brief orientation about the organisation followed by awareness about domestic violence and primary activities that AWAG is involved into. Thereafter, the main focus of the workshops were on awareness about menstrual health and hygiene. The team explained about the side effects of not maintaining appropriate hygiene during menstruation, convincing the tribal girls to use panties and sanitary towels. AWAG staff spoke about myths surrounding menstruation, helping them ventilate their worries about diseases associated with it and tried to bring them out from the blind faith and traditions that women in Indian villages are accustomed to, since many years in relation to menstrual health.
Comments from girls who attended the workshops:
Young girls mentioned that they are shy to talk about menstruation to anyone at home and school. They cannot open up when this topic is mentioned and they hesitate to do so.
Girls in the village do not study after seventh standard, once they start menstruating. They mention that the teachers are quite insensitive towards their problem
Girls believe in the old-school concepts of untouchability. During menstruation, they do not worship or attend religious proceedings
Girls were surprised to learn that day by day in most of the villages several women are sufferring from skin, breast and cervical cancer mainly because of lack of hygiene
They mentioned that sanitary towels available in the market are quite expensive. They cannot afford to buy them
Disha, a supposed 9th grader was one of participant in the workshop. She voiced her concern about not being able to go to school since menstruation caused her severe pain, itchiness and ruined her good clothes. She added that her teachers were male and could not understand this kind of issue and therefore dropped out of school . AWAG staff questioned about what she uses as sanitary pad and learnt that she normally used nylon pads stiched from her mothers old clothes. Trainers advocated her to use sanitary pads but affordability was an issue for her. Staff convinced her to atleast use cotton pads till she could afford a low cost disposable pad. Further, AWAG staff spoke to the principle of the school and urged him to readmit disha to school. The school principle was impressed with the kind of workshops we were doing and asked us to conduct one at his school as well. We will be conducting a workshop for his school soon. As you finish reading our first report, you would be happy to know that disha has started to go to school again and is in 9th grade now attending her classes regularly!